Clause 8

Part of Local Authorities (Overview and Scrutiny) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 3rd March 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Brian Binley Brian Binley Conservative, Northampton South 11:00 am, 3rd March 2010

I support the comments of the hon. Member for Stroud and others, and I agree that this is one of the greatest weaknesses of the overview and scrutiny process. It is not a party political thing in any sense; it spreads right across controlling groups from all political parties. I urge the Bill’s promoter to think about the matter in more depth. I know how wise he is, and he has tried to be so with the Bill, but I am not sure that it gives quite enough consideration to the problem.

I wish to make three points. First, scrutiny chairmanships can offer a massive opportunity to reward loyal retainers. That is the truth of the matter, and it is happening more and more. Of course, that flies in the face of the very purpose of overview and scrutiny committees. Secondly, the bigger the majority, the greater the problem. The very fact that there is a big majority means that there are not enough people from other parties to fill those roles. We need to think about that, too.

Finally, in such cases overview and scrutiny becomes an adjunct and supporter of the executive. Again, that totally undermines the reason for the overview and scrutiny arrangements that the Government initially proposed. Those weaknesses are not rare, but relatively widespread. I consequently urge the Bill’s promoter to see what he can do to make the business of overview and scrutiny a more effective tool for local government in such circumstances. At the moment, it could easily become a total supporter of the executive and thus lose all reason for its existence.