Douglas Carswell

27 FEB 2017

Public spending is out of control

In their attempt to block Article 50, many Remainer MPs rebranded themselves as champions of Parliamentary sovereignty overnight. If they really believed in it, they would call out Parliament's powerlessness over public spending.

Preventing the Crown from spending public money without Parliament's consent was one of the key provisions of the 1689 Bill of Rights. Our democracy is built on that limitation of prerogative power.

It follows that approving how the government uses public money should be one of Parliament's most important jobs. So why are only three days a year set aside for it?

On these Estimates Days, as they are called, hundreds of billions of pounds go through on the nod. Sometimes there isn't even a vote.

The Supplementary Estimates for 2016-17, which the House will discuss this week, cover £68 billion of additional public spending. The details stretch to 756 pages. Yet only a few items of spending will even be debated on the floor of the House.

Three centuries since the Bill of Rights, the executive has effectively regained full control over the public purse.

Is it any wonder the state has racked up trillions in debt?

Ministers shouldn't get such an easy ride. If Select Committees had the right to veto departmental spending, we might even be able to balance the books.

But the state is now so big, it is virtually impossible for Parliament to scrutinise it properly. Perhaps we need a twenty-first-century Bill of Rights to bring it back under control.

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