Friday, 12 March 2010

Tories Question Parliamentary Scrutiny

Next Left looks at the decision by three Tory MPs not to partake in the Parliamentary Administraion Scrutiny Committee (PASC) to investigate the peerage awarded to Lord Ashcroft in 2000. It looks like a politically motivated move by the Tory MPs, and Next Left certainly makes that case IMO.

I have other concerns about it. In any organisation, the conduct of scrutiny has to be scrupulously impartial, and the current PASC chairman Tony Wright has gained a reputation as someone who does not do party politics within his committee. As Next Left shows, under Wright, PASC has produced a number of decisions that challenge the Labour Government.

But what happens if PASC decides there is something wrong with the Ashcroft peerage, and the Tories, having boycotted the committee, refuse to accept the finding?  Will other MPs be tempted to treat the committee as a party-political football? In particular, what happens if the Tories then win the election and form the next government, with a Tory Chair of PASC: will Labour and other opposition MPs feel constrained to keep politics out of the PASC in future? Surely the temptation would  be, having seen the Conservatives (in you opinion) make party politics with the committee, to do exactly the same yourself?

I think it is a bad decision by the Conservatives. Whatever the short-term result, it will have regrettable effects on the workings of PASC in the long run, particularly if the Tories win the election in (May?).

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