CommentIsLinked@LDV: Vince Cable – After a week that showed the Commons at its best and worse, I am ashamed to be a parliamentary eunuch

by Stephen Tall on May 4, 2009

Over at the Daily Mail, Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable reflects on what the House of Commons achieved last week, as well as on what it fails to do. Here’s an excerpt:

Parliament was at its best last week – in the vote defeating the Government over the Gurkhas – and at its worst in another messy wrangle over MPs’ expenses.

But much bigger questions have to be asked: what does Parliament actually do? And why has Parliament no role approving or overseeing the vast amount of taxpayers’ money spent by the Government, well over £1billion a day? Unlike the US Congress and every other major parliament in the Western world, including the European and Scottish Parliaments, the Westminster Parliament has, by tradition, no meaningful responsibility for spending public money. On spending, parish councillors have more powers. This is a nonsense we must put right, especially now that the public accounts are in such a mess. …

There is no effective parliamentary oversight of Government spending – like the £7billion we poured down the drain in Iraq. To be sure, there is the Public Accounts Committee which looks in detail at Government programmes, but only after the event. But Parliament plays no role in debating, let alone setting, Government spending priorities. By contrast, tax measures are discussed in excruciating detail as the Finance Bill grinds through parliamentary committees. It is a very odd system when Parliament oversees how money is raised but not how it is spent.

Last week I put down a motion with the Labour MP Frank Field, seeking to reform these constitutional arrangements. They are a disgrace in a modern democracy. If ever there was a time to reform, it is now.

You can read the article in full HERE.