Once upon a time there was genuine scrutiny. Indeed, as some people may know, a war was once fought over the extent to which the House was able to vote to approve supply and Government moneys. However, this House has slowly but definitely lost its power to oversee how the Executive spend our money. The quango state, on which the PAC produces so many of its reports, is in effect beyond budgetary scrutiny. Retrospective audit on the PAC is pretty much all that is left.
Belying each PAC report and the National Audit Office reports on which we comment is a profound question: why is our legislature now so supine and spineless? Why is our legislature not able to do a better job of scrutinising how the Government spend money? Instead of conducting merely retrospective audit, why does this House not properly scrutinise forward spending proposals? The failure of this House to oversee Whitehall budgets properly makes the work of the PAC vital.
My second point concerns what I see as a pattern in those 14 reports. The PAC produces a vast number of reports. Each week, it seems, we produce a report. Sometimes, scarcely a day goes by when I do not switch on the radio to listen to the "Today" programme and hear my hon. Friend Mr. Leigh talking about one of the reports. It is great that we produce so many reports, but to what effect are they produced? We give permanent secretaries a hard time and we can huff and puff, but the waste and the catastrophically inept project management and public procurement continue.
As many will know, as far as the House of Commons etiquette is concerned, this is pretty strong stuff. But, as Douglas points out, few will have heard it (the Chamber is almost empty in the accompanying video and said video stops before Carswell's intervention).
Add up the smattering of MPs in the chamber, plus those listening to the debate, and I'd be surprised if a dozen clocked what I had to say.
Last time I made the same point via this blog about our "supine and spineless" Commons, I had several thousand read the article, and many dozen websites link to it.
Still blogging? You bet.