Francis Maude MP, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has agreed in principle to give the cross-party Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) a role in approving the creation of new arm’s length public bodies—better known as “quangos”.
The new role would mean that any government proposals to create new quangos or reorganise existing ones would have to be formally approved by PASC. Francis Maude told MPs at a public evidence session in the House of Commons yesterday that he thought PASC should take on this new function. Details of the new role, which was originally recommended by the Institute for Government in its recent report on arm’s length bodies, are to be worked out between the Government and PASC.
Bernard Jenkin MP, the Chair of PASC, has welcomed the move, saying:
"Quangos are often criticised as being unelected and unaccountable, but this new role gives MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee a chance to keep tabs on the creation of new and reorganised public bodies.
I am delighted that the new Government has taken this step, because it makes the executive more accountable to Parliament—which in turn will improve the way democracy works in the UK."
This is the latest move towards giving Commons Select Committees greater powers and independence. In June Chairs of Select Committees were elected for the first time by a secret ballot of the whole House, following the recommendations of the Wright Committee in the last Parliament. Since then, the Chancellor George Osborne has granted the Treasury Committee the power of appointment over the head of the Office of Budget Responsibility, in order to ensure the post remains independent of government.