A Row Over the Children's Commissioner

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for what used to be straightforwardly called the Education Department, and now glories in the more Orwellian name of the Department of Schools, Children and Families, has appointed a new Children's Commissioner. He's appointed Ms. Maggie Atkinson, but Ms. Atkinson's appointment was criticsed by the Select Committee that scrutinises Mr. Balls' department. The chairman of that committee, a Labour MP, Barry Sheerman, has been highly critical of Mr. Balls, describing him as a "bully". Oh dear. Perhaps it is the select committee system that needs a champion. These parliamentary bodies are meant to try and hold government to account, and are based on the much more formidable American Senate and Congress committees. The Atkinson affair shows how toothless they really are - they have no actual power. Mr. Sheerman was probably right to ask why these committees should even bother to vet appointments if they are simply going to be ignored.

Throughout this furore, however, no-one has asked the obvious question - what on earth is a Children's Commissioner for?


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