Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Those Tough Select Committee Chairmen

Select Committees are one of our guarantees of government accountability. They are intended to bring a fearless independence to their close scrutiny of government activities. good to hear Keith Vaz, then, the ubiquitous Home Affairs Select Committee chairman trot out the government manra that "I am sure Jacqui Smith has done nothing wrong." This on top of his wonderful Newsnight performance last week where he defended the Home Office's ban on Dutch MP Gert Wildeer, but admitted he hadn't actually watched the man's film. And why would he need to, when the Home Office has already told him what to think.

Then there's tough guy John McFall. He was enjoying his bullying of the bankers last week - always good to go in hard against the really difficult targets. But have we heard much criticism of his friend Gordon Brown's handling of the crisis, or of the 'light regulatory touch' that is now considered such a key reason for the bankers' over-reach? Not a bit of it. After all, that would involve criticising the government, and heaven knows what would happen if select committees started thinking they could do that all of the time.

There is, of course, one select committee that consistently gives the government a hard time - the Public Accounts Committee. And that happens to be chaired by an Opposition MP. Time for this practice to be extended, perhaps?

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