Have a look at the following paragraph. It’s a House of Commons Early Day Motion from March 2009, asserting:
“That this House welcomes the provisions of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 requiring the publication of local spending reports; believes that people have a right to know how their money is spent by public bodies; especially welcomes the assurances given by the Minister for Local Government, the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth, that the local spending reports will include all public agencies; further welcomes the Minister's assurance that the purpose is to achieve a report that identifies how much will be spent in each area by the authorities; is therefore very alarmed that the consultation now issued on the local spending reports proposes only to include local authorities, including fire authorities and police authorities, and primary care trusts, and to exclude all other public bodies despite the assurances of the Minister; believes it to be unacceptable that this document is now in blatant contravention of the expressed assurances of the Minister; and calls for proper local spending reports to be published, which give effect to those assurances.”
Then have a look at this House of Commons Early Day Motion from October 2009. It is virtually identical.
“That this House welcomes the provisions of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 requiring the publication of local spending reports; believes that people have a right to know how their money is spent by public bodies; especially welcomes the assurances given by the then Minister for Local Government, the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth, that the local spending reports would include all public agencies; further welcomes the Minister’s assurance that the purpose was to achieve a report that identified how much would be spent in each area by the authorities; is therefore very concerned by the limited information available in the local spending reports produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government; believes them to be a contravention of the expressed assurances of the Minister; and calls for proper local spending reports to be published, which will give effect to those assurances.”
You would expect that whoever approved the first motion, would necessarily approve the second. Not so. Below is a list of Labour MPs who approved the first, and rejected the second.
It’s not a frivolous issue. In 2007, Nick Hurd introduced the Sustainable Communities Act, with cross-party support. It was designed to give local people the power to decide how their cash is spent in their area, and to demand a regular breakdown of spending by central government departments and quangos in new ‘Local Spending Reports’.
All of a sudden the government has gone cold on the idea and prefers not to include transparency in relation to quango spending. Given that quangos now spend an astonishing £90 billion a year – equivalent to £3,640 a year for every household, it’s a major omission.
So what was it that forced a change of heart among the MPs on this list? To my knowledge there were no great debates, apologies or explanations. The only possible answer is that the Labour Whip simply instructed these MPs on how to vote, and they meekly obeyed. To which we have to ask, what is the point in electing them? Surely a computer would do a much more efficient job, and at a fraction of the cost?
List of Labour MPs who voted for the first motion and against the second:
Borrow, David S
James, Sian C