Independent bodies and democracy

There is a disjointed contradiction at the heart of UK politics. The major parties claim to believe in the supremacy of Parliament. In Commons exchanges Opposition parties hold the government to blame for everything that happens in the public sector, and for much in the private on grounds they could have regulated it. Ministers rarely deny collective responsibility. 


Yet the major parties this century have also created and empowered more and more so called independent bodies, arguing that panels and boards of independent  experts should be much better at deciding things and at spending tax money than politicians without specialist knowledge and with public opinion to please or appease. The independent bodies who often get things wrong, make mistakes and annoy people usually escape blame and shelter behind the Minister who was not allowed to interfere with the mistakes when  they were making them. 


One of the most prominent examples of this confusion is the Bank of England. Most MPs believe Gordon Brown made it independent. Most believe the Bank has one overriding aim, to keep inflation  down. This is embodied in one simple and memorable target to keep inflation at 2%. Recently inflation hit 11%, more than five times target and more than five times the Bank’s forecast a year or so earlier. Opposition politicians blame the government for the inflation. The government blames the Russian invasion of Ukraine, glossing over inflation already at 5.5% before the tanks rolled. No one seems to blame the Bank that owns the target, sets interest rates, and printed £895 bn of extra money which must have had some impact. 


Take the Environment Agency. It is charged with many tasks which include both keeping us free from flooding and ensuring we have enough water. Some years ago it allowed systems to keep the Somerset levels dry to silt up with fewer working pumps. The inevitable flooding took place. Ministers  had to intervene to get some order restored. The Agency was expressing a political preference for salt marsh over farms which did not reflect tradition or local residents needs.


The reassuring truth is we are still sufficiently a democracy so when an independent  body annoys enough people or makes a big enough mistake politicians do usually intervene. They impose new measures or new men and women on the agency or change the way the whole thing is done. The frustration is the need to often go through a long period when a quango is visibly failing pretending not to notice, or blaming someone else with Opposition and Ministers united in the view politicians  should not interfere. 


The reason our traditional constitutional theory gave power to Ministers was twofold. Often it needs a common sense decision taker to sift the professional advice, challenge the experts and decide what to follow. It also does need a specialist at what the public will accept and at what the public wants, which is what good politicians know. 


Today the NHS is at the centre of political rows. It is ironic it is so, as both main parties believe in the NHS, both support its values, both give more money to it, both want the waiting lists down. The rows are mainly about results. Sometime ago Parliament set up NHS England with its own CEO , Board and well paid senior executives. All agreed the politicians should stay out of running the  NHS. So who is to blame for the current high waiting lists for non urgent assessment and operations, poor labour relations, the shortage of beds  and long waits for urgent treatment? The Opposition will blame Ministers and Ministers blame the epidemic, the unusually high seasonal pressures and global trends. Few ask whether the executives could have spent money better, raised staff morale, used considerable powers over grading, promotions and increments to look after staff better. The quangos seem untouchable. 



If the UK wants to persist with its model of independent bodies it needs to make their CEOs, Chairmen and Governors more directly accountable. Their tenure and remuneration should vary depending on performance. Their responsibilities need to be more tightly defined. If Ministers have to run these things  that is probably best done by taking them back into direct departmental control.


Jerome Powell the Head of the Fed, America’s Central Bank, recently argued strongly for narrow limits being placed on how much independent power a body like the Fed should have. He sees the political imperative to keep main policies under democratic control through the Congress. He said the Fed should not be set aims to  promote the net zero journey or other social objectives, as these are contentious matters that need political judgement and leadership. The Fed should stick to its economic objectives which are cross party and relate to the direct tools and expertise the body has. He is very conscious that the Fed has to earn the right to have such powers by doing a good job and avoiding straying into more disputed policy areas.


This is all good advice. It is time for the UK to review how much power these bodies wield, and to assess how well they have performed. Ministers who fail to do this stand in danger of taking the blame for the errors they have not themselves committed. 






  1. DOM
    January 16, 2023

    Bureaucracy will always find a way to strengthen its hand and deflect blame. Labour is at the heart of such a bureaucratic culture, they excel at it and use it to their advantage. It then doesn’t help matters when Tory PMs and their lackey Ministers accept such an arrangement to the detriment of the taxpayer and the public who it seems always have to absorb the cost of political cowardice by those who should being elected confront obvious abuses of the way in should the State goes about its filthy, authoritarian business

    John may not like what some write on here but it cannot be denied that his party have slyly opened the welcome door to the Left wing, hateful ideology whose purpose is the expansion of State power, the undermining of certain identities and the promotion of a culture that is openly discriminatory

    1. PeteB
      January 16, 2023

      Agreed Dom. Quagos and regulators do not deliver quality or value, are not accountable and slow down change / improvement.

      Given this, why do progressive governments keep creating more of them?

      How much have educational standards improved since OFSTED? Insurance standards since the FCA? Medical standards sincNICE? John’s list could run on.

      1. Bloke
        January 16, 2023

        Empowering bodies independent of Govt is tantamount to empowering oppositions. If those bodies have any value, it should be limited to recommending. Ministers should hold the power to decide and be held accountable.

      2. Jim Whitehead
        January 16, 2023

        The constipation by ‘bureaucracy’ in the Health service is invariably attributed to ‘management’. Whilst this is convenient as a blanket term, there are certain specifics, one of which is the Quango, The Care Quality Commission.
        The additional requirement for reams of paperwork, recordings of inconsequential trivia, audits of all sorts of procedures, is interfering with clinical expeditious endeavour. This is accompanied by the real fear of the CQC’s powers over all that they survey, including the ‘management’.
        A quick browse of the comments in Pulse (online magazine/blog/forum for GPs) will reveal the level of disaffection, loathing even, of practitioners and staff for the CQC. This quango is cited as a major reason for congestion of procedures and for GPs seeking early retirement. For those with access to Pulse this is not news, but for those who are not GPs they only have to enquire from their GP, dentist, nurse, or any Hospital worker what the influence of the CQC is on their work. The reply is unlikely to be a nuanced one.

      3. glen cullen
        January 16, 2023

        Agree PeterB, at best quangos are cronyism and at worst they’re to pay off political debts

      4. Hope
        January 16, 2023

        13 years ago Cameron was going to have a bonfire of quangos. They created many more to deflect incompetent government. Another failed promise.

        Environment Agency created to take work away from local authority. Community charge not reduced. People in Somerset now pay an additional amount for flood defence in community charge! It was the Queen and then Prince of Wales intervening that kicked govt. into action. Although Liddell-Granger MP was vocal in support for action against pro EU Tory party following EU habitat rules. Booker was excellent in his analysis as usual.

        Urban ghetto of 22,000 houses now built very close!

        1. Hope
          January 16, 2023

          Taxation taxation is the Tory way. Why charge once when you can shaft public three times. Same for adult social care.

          JR, when are you going to highlight taxation for same thing two or times? EA should have had its budget cut when local authority took back some work that EA failed to do. Why not scrap EA and go back to la control? Why not JR?

    2. Nottingham Lad Himself
      January 16, 2023

      You and Sir John need to change the record.

      The Tories have a huge majority in our supreme Parliament.

      If there’s anything that they don’t like about the way that this country is run then it has been within their gift to change it for years now.

      However, that would mean taking more responsibility themselves personally, and also doing work rather than enjoying wielding power.

      1. Dave Andrews
        January 16, 2023

        They’re not Tories, they’re PPE socialists pretending to be Tories, only now they’re not pretending very well.

        1. Ashley
          January 16, 2023


        2. X-Tory
          January 16, 2023

          Quite right. We do not have a Tory government, we have a Traitors government. Every day there is a new betrayal. Here is today’s: having already closed the ‘Help to Grow: Digital’ scheme and cut back R&D tax credits for small and innovative firms, the government is now abandoning (or, at the very least, significantly reducing) the proposed ‘Investment Zones’, designed to promote business growth by reducing taxes and regulations. Hundreds of local councils have spent tens of thousands of pounds each putting in bids to become Investment Zones, and these are all being binned. What a shameful waste of time, money and opportunity! The UK tech industry is also extremely disappointed, and say that the loss of this scheme will “lead to slower economic growth and fewer job opportunities”. But clearly Sunak the Traitor couldn’t care less.

      2. IanT
        January 16, 2023

        The reality is that Rishi Sunak does not a have a majority, he has multiple factions (which of course is true of Labour too). Much of what needs to be done is contentious within his own party – be that relating to the EU, Taxation, Climate Change, Modern Slavery Laws – an endless list. So he is hostage to any group (of 20 or so) of his own MPs who don’t agree with him – especially as many don’t intend to run again or have given up all hope of being re-elected. I agree with Sir John about the Quangos and most especially the BoE – but having created the Hydra, who is going to cut off all it’s heads? Not Rishi for sure (Nor Starmer either).

      3. a-tracy
        January 16, 2023

        The general rule is that all Bills have to be passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It seems not everything is in their ‘gift’. The House of Lords has a suspensory veto. This enables the Lords to delay legislation for one parliamentary session – usually one year.

        This seems to be a cop-out. 128 defeats 2020-2021

      4. Mickey Taking
        January 16, 2023

        You don’t accept then that these bodies, organisations and Quangos have stealthily changed the balance of political outlook over the years? What were mostly staffed by qualified, independent thought senior people with the users/customers at the forefront they have been allowed to transition to self-seeking idealists who are far too politically driven with little empathy or care for the users/customers directly affected by their actions?
        As commenters on here and elsewhere have been insisting for years it is way over due a massive switch of responsibilities and closure of quangos and the like.
        That needs to be done from the H of C, and with that body also filled with head in the clouds sheep, there is little chance of that!

      5. Peter
        January 16, 2023

        In other news, there is talk of a new Trussite coalition, numbering forty or so MPs, out to make trouble for Sunak. Meanwhile, others push for the return of Johnson….

      6. Your comment is awaiting moderation
        January 16, 2023

        I have the feeling that our sagacious host is now at odds with his own party.

      7. Paul Cuthbertson
        January 16, 2023

        NLH – Whichever party is in “power”!!!! they do as directed and laid down by the Globalist UK Establishment. Nothing changes, the people are irrelevant. Unfortunately we do not have a US Constitution that states, “WE the people…….”, but change is coming and will surprise many.

    3. Peter
      January 16, 2023

      “The reassuring truth is we are still sufficiently a democracy so when an independent body annoys enough people or makes a big enough mistake politicians do usually intervene. ”

      Not so with regulators, who seem to exist just to provide a fig leaf of respectability. In the financial crash nobody was held to account. In the BAE bribes to Saudi Arabia issue nobody was held to account.

      The Financially Supine Authority, in its various guises, drags proceedings out until they are forgotten and occasionally prosecute the little guys.

      The Post Office ruined the lives of many postmasters and they got no real justice only massive legal fees. None of the culprits suffered.

      ‘Too Big to Fail’ rules OK.

    4. glen cullen
      January 16, 2023

      Good words Dom
      Quangos shouldn’t be allowed to continually roll over, they should be limited by project or life time of parliament

  2. Mark B
    January 16, 2023

    Good morning.

    What it comes down to is, who controls who ? Who created these bodies and then staff’s them ?

    For example let us take everybody’s Aunt Sally, the OBR. Created by Gideon Osborne when he was Chancellor it has become not only as useless as all the other QUANGO’s but also highly politicised and more interested in its own survival and growth rather than simply carrying out its mission.

    These QUANGO’s have also been used, much like the Honours System and Commissioners jobs in the EU, as a means to reward political friends. Even when these friends have been complete failures like the current boss of the P.O., he of formerly, Track and Trace 😉

    But as others here are now saying, after nearly 13 years in power, talking about it is rather pointless now.

    1. Cuibono
      January 16, 2023

      Nail on head!

    2. Peter
      January 16, 2023

      Patronage is absent from the article.

      Boris Johnson – to name but one – loved it. Seventy nine new peers in the House of Lords etc, etc.

      They are all at it though. Cronyism is pervasive at all levels and across all parties. Poor performance is no hindrance. Fail at one job and you move to another cushy number, often with a handsome pay off from the job in which you screwed up.

    3. MFD
      January 16, 2023

      I’m in total agreement with you Mark.
      But we must start somewhere as this situation must not go on!

    4. Mickey Taking
      January 16, 2023

      action speaks louder than words, don’t hold your breath!

    5. X-Tory
      January 16, 2023

      In a democracy the people must be all powerful. and they exert that power by having elections to appoint delegates to do their bidding – as decided through the winning manifesto – for a set number of years. This means that the government must have all the powers necessary to fulfil the wishes of the people. That is why giving power to ANY independent body is a negation of democracy. THIS ALSO APPLIES TO THE JUDICIARY. Unelected judges must not be able to stifle the will of the people, as expressed through their elected politicians – that is fascism. So I oppose ALL independent bodies. Let the government have complete power for 5 years and then let them be judged on their record. They will have NO EXCUSES, and not be able to hide behind claims that they were not able to do what they wanted.

      The trouble is that we have politicians who DO NOT WANT power. That is quite obvious and undeniably true: just look at Sunak’s recent decision NOT to take the power (as was proposed) to ‘call-in’ and overrule decisions of City regulators. Sunak is a stupid coward who does not want to govern the country. He is content for this to be done by foreigners (such as the EU) and independent bodies. That is a denial of democracy. It is obvious that you do not agree with this approach, yet neither you nor your backbench colleagues have done anything about it.

  3. Fedupsoutherner
    January 16, 2023

    Great post John. The Environment Agency. What a pigs ear they are making of things right now. I live near Shrewsbury which is flooding again for the 4th year running now. The river Severn has burst it’s banks again and the devastation it causes is far worse than it used to be. Our friends together with their neighbours that live in a village 10 miles out of Shrewsbury are at this moment watching the water inch it’s way up to their door for the fourth time in 3 years. It used to flood every 20 years but now it’s every year. The house is not yet together after the last flood. They have been living with 5 dogs in a conservatory and garage made into a kitchen for over a year. They’ve had their ground floors dug up in the main house and they’ve not finished yet before its flooding again. They have had to farm out the dogs to other people as the only way in and out of their home is by boat and they cannot risk the dogs swimming in contaminated water. Many people who have boats on the river Severn have said how the river has become so silted up over the years they cannot get the boat past these areas. It’s about time the agency got real and did something constructive. Net zero is costing a fortune and that money would be better spent tackling these problems so people can live properly and not playing God with the climate which is beyond their control.

    1. Sharon
      January 16, 2023

      Agree with what you say about dealing with the problems God sends, rather than trying to play god … ‘to save the world’ which is quite capable of looking after itself!

      1. MFD
        January 16, 2023

        Exactly Sharon.

      2. Lifelogic
        January 16, 2023

        Indeed if you want to stop flooding do you:-

        A. Adapt to periods of higher rain fall with suitable flood planes, dredging, reservoirs and other building adaptations for a few £million or
        B. spend many £trillions on saving C02 and impoverishing the nation, get all the other countries to do the same & then wait 100+ years for it to have any possible effect?

        Clue the second method clearly will not work anyway and deaths from extreme weather events have fallen hugely over recent years anyway.

        1. Donna
          January 17, 2023

          The Climate Change Agenda and Net Zero are about MONEY and CONTROL ….. not “saving the planet.”

          As the wonderful Neil Oliver frequently says on his GB Show “it’s not about what they say it’s about.”

        2. Hope
          January 17, 2023

          Or in 1997 create Environment Agency to implement EU environment rules, take role away from councils without taking budget from LA to fund EA. Find EA not fit for purpose so give role back to LA and allow LA to charge an extra amount in council tax that their budget already provided for! As is the current case to tax us two or three times for the same failed service. Same for social adult care. This is the high tax big state Tory way.

    2. rose
      January 16, 2023

      One sometimes wonders whether the activists in the Environment Agency allow people’s homes to be flooded deliberately, in order to carry their contentions political points. Or perhaps they just prefer sitting indoors at their computers to maintaining our waterways.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 16, 2023


    3. Dave Andrews
      January 16, 2023

      Whenever I see images of flooding in this country, I notice the old buildings like the local church are clear of it all. It’s as if people of old had more sense than to place buildings they valued on the flood plain.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 16, 2023

        Indeed and you can often dig out picture of very similar or even worse flooding seventy years back or similar.

      2. Martyn G
        January 16, 2023

        “It’s as if people of old had more sense than to place buildings they valued on the flood plain”.

        That, they did!

      3. Mickey Taking
        January 16, 2023

        Churches were built on higher ground so the bells would be heard as far away as possible, to call the faithful to gather.

      4. Berkshire Alan
        January 17, 2023


        Indeed I see today that the new (4 year old) Tesla charging station at Winnersh is partly under water AGAIN, yes built on a flood plain area, difficult to make it up really.

    4. Cuibono
      January 16, 2023

      “Green” policies developed and imposed to “prove” climate change.
      And the idiots who have enabled them!
      Here a perfectly good school was sold off (planning permit bunce etc?) and an ugly, loathsome new school built on a flood plane….ON STILTS! And incidentally on a park that had allegedly been gifted to the people.

      1. Mickey Taking
        January 16, 2023

        Sir John probably knows that locals who bought houses on Hatch Farm, Winnersh are still waiting for the school to be built on the flood plain, spokespeople said it could ‘because playing fields are not used in winter when flooding is more likely’.
        Just about sums up bureaucratic thinking in this day and age!

    5. agricola
      January 16, 2023

      Nett Zero is down to Boris and his solutions. Half the conservative party want him back rendering them unelectable, affable and erudite as he may be. Climate Change, a basic property of climate, is possibly dumping more water on us at the moment; we need to do better at managing its effect rather than Canute like fighting its reality by demonising 0.04% of the Earths atmosphere which in its principal role is plant food.
      I have real sympathy for your friend, having in the 70’s come within a litteral 1/4″ of having my cottage flooded. Severn & Trent dredged the Avon feeder stream later and security returned.

    6. Martyn G
      January 16, 2023

      The trouble is that a number of Directives of the European Commission are relevant for dredging and related activities, incl. the management of dredged sediments.
      These are: Birds Directive; Habitats Directives; Marine Strategy Framework Directive; Waste Framework Directive; and  Water Framework Directive.
      These still apply to the UK, despite Brexit.

  4. formula57
    January 16, 2023

    Jerome Powell may also be mindful of the “audit the Fed.” movement, particularly with the Republican Party now in charge of the lower house. The carnage that could ensure!

    Separately so far as concerns UK workings, where “Often it needs a common sense decision taker to sift the professional advice, challenge the experts and decide what to follow” is that what we saw when Boris “getting the big calls right” Johnson dealt with the Covid pandemic?

    1. Jim Whitehead
      January 16, 2023

      F 57, ++++. And not to forget the ruinous pursuit of Net Zero . . . . I struggle to think of anything else which could be considered to be a successful ‘big call’ attributable to Johnson (Brexit success was mainly down to the as yet unknighted Nigel Farage).

    2. John Hatfield
      January 16, 2023

      You took the words right out of my mouth, formula57.

  5. Fedupsoutherner
    January 16, 2023

    It seems to me all these quangos are making a great job of mucking up our lives and the biggest culprits are those that think they can control the climate, the WEF and the WHO. Behind them all are shed loads of money to be earn and we are the ones paying for their greed and incompetence. They are all about as much use as a chocolate tea pot.

    1. Sharon
      January 16, 2023


    2. rose
      January 16, 2023

      A WEF woman was on the Today Programme earlier saying help with energy bills must only be targeted at poor households. She had nothing to say about business and manufacturing. And nothing about supply. Her message was everyone has to pay a lot more more and use a lot less.

    3. Cuibono
      January 16, 2023

      100% agree.
      And when their bios trumpet “40 years of experience in…” you’d think someone might twig that considering the state of the country their talents MUST be somewhat over-rated.
      Adding to your observation…CHOCOLATE FIREGUARDS!
      Unlimited benefits at the top and bottom of society and us stuck in’t middle…paying for the lot!!

    4. Lifelogic
      January 16, 2023

      Indeed. A good speech at the Oxford Union by Konstantin Kisin pointing out that what the UK does on C02 is essentially irrelevant as the World CO2 output will really be decided by China, India and similar and no way will these people want to (or put up) with staying poor rather than burning coal, gas and oil.

      He could also have made the point that C02 is clearly not a serious climate issue anyway and that the “solutions” being pushed by our government EVs, wind, solar, tidal… save no or virtually no CO2 anyway when fully accounted for. But only one of these reasons is sufficient to show the whole agenda is deranged. As is the new bonkers net zero report from the history graduate Chris Skidmore MP.

    5. glen cullen
      January 16, 2023

      Attendees at UNWEF DAVOS

      Grant Shapps – Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
      Keir Starmer – Leader of the Opposition
      Kemi Badenoch – Secretary of State for International Trade
      Zac Goldsmith – Minister of State for the Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and the Environment
      Nicholas Lyons – Lord Mayor of the City of London
      Rachel Reeves – Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
      Richard Moore – Chief, Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
      Tony Blair – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997-2007)

      Your taxpayers money funding holidays

      1. Lifelogic
        January 17, 2023

        If only it was just holidays!

      2. R.Grange
        January 17, 2023

        Yes, Davos is a very nice skiing resort. Good to know Shapps, Goldsmith and Badenoch have got it all in hand and can afford to take the time off.

      3. Donna
        January 17, 2023

        Oh it’s not a holiday. It’s an anti-democratic, Globalist’s Strategy Meeting …. and we’re not allowed to know what they discussed, let alone what they agreed.

        But they will come back here and, based on the WEF website and announcements of intentions, they will implement it with no mandate whatsoever.

  6. Philip P.
    January 16, 2023

    All very true, Sir John, and I was wondering if the body of ‘experts’ to start with, in your campaign to curb their influence, would perhaps be SAGE. Its doom-laden assessments of the health risks posed by a cold virus were greatly overstated, especially when they got the Omicron variant completely wrong. Then again, we have to remember that government ministers were mostly quite content to go along with what they were being told by the Covid crisis merchants. For whatever reason. Hancock’s promotion in the media of the ‘My GP’ app marketed by the Babylon company comes to mind. That aside, I don’t get the impression that government ministers are really capable of exercising their own judgment. They got to where they are by going along with the groupthink. Unfortunately, that may become increasingly true also of many of the academic ‘experts’, looking at the way universities are going.

    No easy solutions, I’m afraid.

  7. Donna
    January 16, 2023

    Sir John fails to mention that these failing Quangos are almost exclusively headed up by left-wingers who have the power to impose their left-wing agenda on their fiefdom – so it doesn’t matter who we vote for, the country has a left-wing agenda forced on it.

    The Pretendy-CONs have done nothing about this; in fact they appear to encourage it. Sunak recently appointed Patricia Hewitt, a former LABOUR Health Minister, to carry out a review into the NHS. Were there really no Conservative candidates who could have done that?

    All it does is demonstrate that Oppositional Politics is dead in the UK and we effectively have a Westminster Uni-Party imposing a left-wing Agenda (which comes direct from the WEF).

    After 10 years, we’re still waiting for the Pretendy-CONs to light the bonfire of the quangos we were promised.

    1. Fedupsoutherner
      January 16, 2023

      Correct Donna.

    2. formula57
      January 16, 2023

      @ Donna – fair enough but about “bonfire of the quangos”, recall that no-one here gives Sir John recommendations about which to set alight when he asks, likely as the functions performed are recognized typically as needed. (The nearest I came was to consider the White Fish Authority (on the grounds its sounds racist and so might be – why take the risk nowadays?) but it exists no longer.)

      And quango performance is mimicked by government Departments. The outstanding example of course is the Home Office immigration directorate, described as “not fit for purpose” seventeen years go by then Home Secretary Reid and he never to be contradicted by any successor since. We learn that now it processes one (1) asylum application per week.

      1. Donna
        January 17, 2023

        Many of the Quangos post Maastricht Treaty were created to implement and monitor compliance with EU Regulations …. so Government Ministers could deny responsibility. Until those EU Regulations are scrapped or amended, the Quangos will carry on with their bureaucratic, EU-compliant roles.

    3. X-Tory
      January 16, 2023

      Quite right, Donna. We don’t have a genuine democracy in this country. We have a ONE-PARTY STATE – as both the Conservatives and Labour are EXACTLY THE SAME. That is why only a complete idiot would vote Conservative at the next election. Why would you vote for something you know you will not get? Why would you vote to be betrayed? Why would you vote for liars and frauds? Only a vote for Reform UK will achieve anything – even if they don’t get any MPs elected their votes will be counted and noticed!

  8. BOF
    January 16, 2023

    Is the always wrong OBR a completely superfluous body? A body of experts, to advise the BoE, which should be the expert in that field. What is the point of the OBR except to build its own little empire, none I expect.

    Sage was another completely unnecessary body with off the scale wrong modelling and dangerously bad advice that caused immense harm to the economy and public health. Their bad advice financed by BoE money printing.

    Ministers need to take more direct responsibility instead of blaming the bodies they themselves have appointed.

  9. Sir Joe Soap
    January 16, 2023

    You need to look at who heads up these independent bodies, then ask whether swapping them for somebody who has run anything in the private sector successfully might be a better plan. People like Simon Wolfson, Dyson, Jim Ratcliffe seem to by and large talk sense but these types are never seen near these bodies. It tends to be lingering public sector/academic types or politicians’ mates. They might know the right people but they don’t strike me as generally switched on.

    1. SM
      January 16, 2023


    2. a-tracy
      January 16, 2023

      Amanda Pritchard since Aug 2021. A daughter of a COE Bishop. Oxford Grad. Worked her entire career in the NHS.

  10. Jude
    January 16, 2023

    This sums up the predicament we face as a nation. Too many unaccountable bodies who are not fit for purpose. Being given total control of billions of tax payers funds.
    In the private sector accountability is key to ensure funds are spent well. To provide the profits for investment & growth.
    Taxes are created by the people & any mismanagement should be made public & those at fault made accountable.

  11. rose
    January 16, 2023

    Another constitutional contradiction arises from Devolution: if it is widely agreed HMG can override the SNP’s Gender Recognition legislation, to protect the Union and the 2010 Equality Act, why can’t they do the same with the NIP, to protect the the Union, the Act of Union, and the Belfast Agreement? And with as much urgency?

    Reply The Commons has voted to do, currently delayed in Lords

    1. a-tracy
      January 16, 2023

      John, why didn’t your party do something about the Lords keep holding up your governments plans for improvement?

    2. Mickey Taking
      January 16, 2023

      reply to reply ….another body filled with failed politicians, friends of the outgoing, those who donated sufficient to get the status…..more than ever a joke of a parliamentary body. Solution? Close it and replace with a variety of thinkers who are not swayed by political parties.

    3. X-Tory
      January 16, 2023

      Reply to Sir John’s reply: Yes, the Lords is a roadblock, but that is why I have been saying for years that what the prime minister needs to do is simply appoint 100 new, genuinely-conservative peers. In the longer-term, we need a new law that makes it clear that the Lords has only SIX WEEKS to review any Bill and can only do so ONCE. After it has been returned to the Commons it does NOT go back to the Lords. Bills should NOT need Lords approval to become laws.

      But the truth is that the government DOES NOT WANT POWER. That is why it is pointless voting Conservative again, even for good Tories such as yourself. Seriously, what is the point of you getting elected if you can’t do anything? The only logical solution is for you to stand for a different party that would genuinely change the country.

  12. David Cooper
    January 16, 2023

    Although the Climate Change Committee is not a quango, it has effectively been given special powers under Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act, and allows its ideologically compliant members (e.g. Lord Deben) to exercise power without responsibility. Power to call for bans and “phasing out” (horrible phrase) of inexpensive and reliable products that contribute to and enhance quality of life for us ordinary plebs, without the responsibility of carrying the can when the replacement expensive and unreliable products do not adequately replace the originals and thereby do nothing for quality of life, only harm it.

    1. Mark
      January 16, 2023

      The CCC, headed by Deben who is now 4 months beyond the end if his term, is joined by OFGEM and the revealingly renamed North Sea Transition Authority as wreckers in chief of our energy system, ably assisted by National Grid and the Business Eradication and Industrial Suppression department. Now we have the Skidmore report, a strangely eponymous description of the consequences for the UK economy of the pursuit of highly damaging net zero policy.

  13. Anselm
    January 16, 2023

    Excellent thought from our host.
    A smattering of comments.
    Is anyone listening to your wise words?
    “There were 513,000 employees in the Civil Service in September 2022, up 1,000 (0.2%) compared with June 2022, and up 8,000 (1.6%) compared with September 2021.” – according to the ONS. Try organising that lot! Does anyone remember the Post Office scandal? Or the scandals of Defence procurement? I will not start on the NHS where even consultants (I know two) are fleeing. and then there is the inactive utterly korrekt Police…

    1. Fedupsoutherner
      January 16, 2023

      Anselm. Korrekt police? Yet another serious failing if the Met to vet police officers being reported today. This time a Met policeman with 2 decades of service and who is a serial rapist. Can we trust ANYONE in charge of anything today?

  14. Cuibono
    January 16, 2023

    Ask not what a member can do for a quango…
    But what membership of a particular quango can do for a member!
    If I had a particular axe to grind/profit to make…then I would definitely want to be a member of a quango that dovetailed.
    How convenient!

    1. Cuibono
      January 16, 2023

      Put a fox in charge of the henhouse.
      Although in that case, where personal loss might be at stake, the fox risks being battered to death.

  15. Michael Saxton
    January 16, 2023

    Thanks Sir John these are important issues and they need urgent action by Government. Clearly the NHS is broken, the Environment Agency a failure and the Climate Change Committee completely lacks objectivity and impartiality. My concern is that Quango’s have made far too many MP’s lazy, by failing to undertake their own research.

    1. X-Tory
      January 16, 2023

      Yes, Sir John debates important issues and that is why it is a pleasure to read his blog. But is there any EVIDENCE, really, ANY at all, that ministers do so? Or that they pay any heed whatsoever to Sir John’s views? From their actions it is evident that the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘NO’. So the real question is why on earth does he remain a member of a party that scorns him so? One of life’s unanswerable mysteries …

  16. Ian B
    January 16, 2023

    Sir John

    In a Democracy, a real Democracy it should be simple. If you, or an organisation exists by contributions from the taxpayer, you are at all times answerable, accountable and all your actions are held responsible to the taxpayer. There is and should be no get of jail free on this.

    The above should automatically include the Bank of England, you cant be independent then have all your mistakes funded by the taxpayer. That would also then extend to the Office Of Budget Responsibility, as it stands to day their miss-information according to the MsM has cost the taxpayer £11 billion, that is also looking like it will be £28billion come the budget.

    The Government has to get to grips and Manage, they are permitted to just take our money. They get to spend it on our behalf, the intention being we the taxpayer see a return.

    Above all the Government should stop and stop other saying ‘Government Money’ – they don’t have any it is the taxpayers money.

  17. agricola
    January 16, 2023

    And you chastise us for giving lengthy answers.
    Advisory boards/quangos are only as good as the people in them. If the minister chose from those with political awareness/common sense, in addition to their technical ability and they confered with their minister before changing anything major, it might be workable. You also need to establish that civil servants are scribes, little more. In fairness to them, in recent EU past they were the power along with their EU colleagues. They produced law without parliamentary scrutiny and must have become very disdainful of MPs and Ministers. They need re-boxing. They were at the root of Somerset flooding.

    Decades of tinkering and lack of forward planning by all political parties are at the heart of NHS problems. A lack of medical professionals, inadequately rewarded, over burdoned by incompetent and excessive administration is your problem. Define what the component parts of the NHS are, think about what each segment should be doing, discuss it with the medical professionals, then get on and do it. By cross party concensus get it out of the political arena with a 25 year plan. Remember the aim is free at the time of need, the means should be the most productive, not governed by political philosophy. End of story.

  18. RDM
    January 16, 2023

    But, doesn’t this extend to Devolution, and people within the Regions with their ‘Independent State bodies’?

    And, after Labour get in, we’ll have Councils acting independent (Debt?) of the strategy of the government of the day?

    Surely, top-down, there needs to be a controlling strategy, for nothing else, but to ensure efficient Operational standards?

    Haven’t we been here before? Councils acting independently, with massive debts?

    I agree with some Bottom-up democracy, but at a Council level, acting equally for all councils within GB and NI, but only after we remove all the extra layers that have been created since Tony Blair created his mess!

    With the greatest advantage being the strategic partnerships with other councils in providing services, matching the strategic needs of the country, as set out by the Westminster Government!

    This is what should of happened in 1997, when we last had a chance!



  19. Walt
    January 16, 2023

    Sir John, you are an experienced investor and constructor of investment portfolios. Sometimes, it is instructive to assume that yesterday a system error sold every holding in a portfolio; then to decide which holdings if any would be bought back today.
    Could our government do similarly with the UK’s portfolio of quangos? Within those if any that are kept (or “bought back”), do the exercise again with staffing, especially management.

  20. Bryan Harris
    January 16, 2023

    If the UK wants to persist with its model of independent bodies it needs to make their CEOs, Chairmen and Governors more directly accountable.

    Yes, totally agree, and by limiting their scope perhaps they will waste less money.

  21. Ian B
    January 16, 2023

    Sir John

    We need, the Country needs a list of not only the costs of the pseudo empires but what they achieve. Its called transparency. In a Democracy the actions of the State are intended to be transparent.

    There also need to be full transparency of the failures that are then dumped on the taxpayer. Thinking here, the many NHS department failures under May’s regime, all indications are the taxpayer and its customers are still paying today and paying big time.

    The cost of the failure by the Financial Conduct Authority to act on its own warnings.

    The Bank of England can never be Independent all the time it is the taxpayer that is required to bail them out for their own mistakes. Then add in the neglect of duty on interest rates, and vocalisation a political position against Government. They cant have it every which way.

    All the above are Government Constructs on the basis the Treasury has failed, but why not make sure it the Treasury is managed properly and works. Is that so hard.

    What is everyone in Government so frightened of?

  22. glen cullen
    January 16, 2023

    It happens from time to time in the private sector when a new employee contract is issued, every member of staff has to reapply and justify their position – likewise scrap every quango and start again

  23. Ian B
    January 16, 2023

    In reality Democracy is failing for no other reason than the Government (and in recent years its predecessors) have failed to manage. You could reason Parliament has failed as they are allowing anti democratic processes to fester and cause the degeneration of the Country.

    From that we the ‘plebs’ could reason that a great chunk of those in Parliament are looking to ‘free-load’, their next job in a cushy Quango or the HoL finding that aim more important than the challenge of a real Democracy in a real Parliament.

    The refusal of Government to manage Itself, the State, the Establishment is an indication to all that they see personally their future is elsewhere and the taxpayer will pay many times over.

    There is no other rational reasoning that can be applied when they appear to basically steal from the taxpayer, then throw it around with no tangible purpose or accountability attached other to feather their own personal nests when their constituents no longer want them.

  24. AncientPopeye
    January 16, 2023

    Excellent article Sir, any update on the ‘Bonfire of the Quango’s’ yet?

  25. miami.mode
    January 16, 2023

    Unlike the private sector the people running quangos, agencies, the public sector, BBC and suchlike do not have to earn their money, they just have it given to them. More accountability is needed or change the way they are funded (it’s apparent that when such people are on television or radio they always talk about funding).

  26. Original Richard
    January 16, 2023

    “There is a disjointed contradiction at the heart of UK politics.”

    This is deliberate. It enables our existing politicians to campaign and win votes on a policies they can then jettison once they are elected whilst hiding behind the institutions they have created.

    For instance, politicians claim to want prosperity for the country but then use the CCC/BEIS/Ofgem to pursue a net zero CO2 emissions policy designed to destroy our economy.

    The North Sea Transition Authority and Office for Nuclear Regulation are tasked with removing our only sources of independent, cheap and reliable (not weather dependent) energy.

    The Environment Agency’s flooding “failures” are tasked to make it look like we have a climate crisis.

    A “not fit for purpose” Home Office is designed to allow massive immigration whilst politicians campaign to reduce immigration. The RN and RNLI are used to ferry ever more illegal immigrants to our country.

    The OBR and the BoE are used to promote far left economics and remove unwanted PMs.

    The educational establishment are tasked with reducing educational standards by supplanting the “3 Rs” with critical race theory etc. and frightening our children with stories the world will end in their lifetime. Universities to promote Marxism, intolerance, ignorance and a large debt.

    The agitprop BBC exists to promote communist doctrines and gaslight the country into the behavioural changes deemed necessary for our new net zero energy life.

  27. Mark Thomas
    January 16, 2023

    Sir John,
    If this government won’t even sell off Channel 4, then we can be fairly certain that nothing else is going to change. There will never be a bonfire of the quangos. When Labour gets into power there will just be more of them.

  28. ChrisS
    January 16, 2023

    I will confine my contribution to this debate to the NHS :

    The problem with A&E and the ambulance service appears to be caused primarily by “Bed Blocking” with further difficulties caused by there being too few acute beds in hospitals. Recently, it was announced that £200m on top of a previous tranch of £500m would be taken from the EXISTING NHS budget to deal with the problem. Furthermore, NHS England and the managers of individual Trusts decide how much of their budget should be used to give each hospital the number of acute beds it needs. They have got these numbers disastrously wrong.

    My question is, if this was money already in the budget, why did the CEO of NHS England not authorise its use to purchase beds in the care sector way back in the summer? Everyone, including all of us contributing here, already knew full well that we were going to have severe problems this winter.

    The direct result has been the deaths of at least 500 people a week because of ambulance crews not being able to do their job properly and A&E not being able to move patients onto wards to enable them to take in new patients arriving in those very ambulances.

    If the decision required the Secretary of State to authorise it, then the system needs to be changed.
    If it was within the power of NHS England to decide, then heads should roll within that organisation because NHS managers are directly responsible for the excess deaths. Corporate Manslaughter charges should then be considered.

    But, as usual, we have no idea who is really responsible for this debacle and nobody is being held directly to account for it.

  29. Keith from Leeds
    January 16, 2023

    Your article is spot on, Sir John. But the solution is also very simple. Sack the heads of these Quangos when they fail, as Mr Bailey at the BOE should have already been sacked for his utter failure to keep inflation at 2%. Then don’t allow these people to pick up another taxpayer-funded job where they can mess up all over again. Why has the head of the NHS not been sacked for the shockingly poor performance? Why has the head of the Environment Agency not been sacked? Why have the scientists on Sage, whose advice was completely wrong, not been sacked?
    This Government not only tolerates mediocrity, it encourages it!

  30. Keith Jones
    January 16, 2023

    Who in the UK would/could/should undertake this review?

  31. Bert Young
    January 16, 2023

    Parliament is responsible for running the country , this is a big job and must not and cannot be left to inexperienced individuals . Setting policy is one thing but getting the wheels running efficiently and profitably is in the hands of sectorial management . Those in Government have to oversee subordination and understand and implement what happens underneath them and spend a lot of their time in doing so ; shouting words and proclaiming policy in the Commons becomes a laughing stock when success does not follow . Too often No. 10 relies on personal support rather than suitable experience and background skill . Ministers ought to be approved by extremely careful and intense scrutiny .

  32. a-tracy
    January 16, 2023
    26,000 by Labour 2003-2009/10

    Who made these decisions, the governments of both colours, the NHS commissioning boards? Who lets zero in on who decides to have more nurses and doctors in hospitals and fewer recovery beds? Wouldn’t then the cost per night per patient reduce?

    NHS England 6500 employees. £129.9 billion to spend 2020-21.
    Did your government last year choose Mrs Pritchard as CEO or a joint party committee or the NHS England board? Why do we never see her interviewed on our TV news?
    Are your government happy with their performance over the last 13 years?
    Who reports on their performance and checks their kpi targets are achieved?
    Who sets their targets?

  33. James1
    January 16, 2023

    “The quangos seem untouchable”.
    Yes, the very reason we should get rid of most of them, and put people in place who are accountable.

  34. a-tracy
    January 16, 2023

    Well, the nursing union leader Cullen firmly blames governments’ policymakers and their long-term mismanagement of the NHS. So she thinks your government is managing them, not this NHS England body and repeatedly says so in the media!
    So buck passing to the 6500 people in the NHS quango doesn’t work anyway.

    I would have loved the newspaper to say, what specific policy changes would you overturn immediately, and over the next five years?
    Does the Labour party/SNP agree to change them?

    There is a salary review body, that recommended 5.4% for band 5 nurses from 2021-22 to 2022-23, this was inflation running at that time:

    They got a one-off consolidated payment backdated to April of £1400, which effectively gave a band 5 nurse a 9.8% uplift in line with the inflation rate. £28,455 from £25,655 the previous year. Lower grades would have got a higher % as £1400 is a higher % increase to their basic. It was probably done as a one-off consolidated payment rather than a new basic because this government is hoping that inflation drops back down below 5%.

    Inner London gets 20% more, Outer London 15% more, Fringe 5% more.

  35. Philip P.
    January 16, 2023

    And that’s even before we get into the question of what counts as ‘independent’. It’s particularly tricky with academics who have links to the pharmaceutical industry. The problem came out into the open in the recent case of a member of US Government health products safety committees, who turned out under cross-examination to have worked as a paid advisor to Pfizer Inc. She was advising the government on key safety decisions on health products manufactured by that company among others. But before we shout ‘conflict of interest’, let’s remember that the government wants the best people to advise it, and very often the best people got to their position in their academic field through grant funding… provided by the industry sector whose projects and products the experts are supposed to be advising on.

    In my opinion, the way forward would be to ensure that there are more experts in fields where governments take advice, whose research is publicly funded, not funded by private corporations.

  36. Elli ron
    January 16, 2023

    Bodies of experts or services funded by the government, directly or indirectly, must be fully and directly under government control.
    This makes them less useful to ministers who like those bodies precisely because they can easily disclaim any failures associated with these bodies as “not my fault Gov”

  37. glen cullen
    January 16, 2023

    Are our great leaders about to pour more taxpayers money into the battery builder ‘BritishVolt’ owned by the Glencore one of the worlds biggest conglomerate, based in Switzerland …BEIS isn’t helping business, in fact this governments policies aren’t helping ‘UK’ business
    Why I hear you ask ….because of the UN IPCC, and Climate Change

  38. Pauline Baxter
    January 16, 2023

    ‘The major parties claim to believe in the supremacy of parliament’.
    Well yes but surely underlying that ‘supremacy’ is that ‘the PEOPLE are sovereign.
    That was Corbyn’s big mistake which lead up to Johnson’s massive majority.
    Anyway, a bit irrelevant to your points today Sir John.
    Yes inflation should be kept down. Yes the Bank of England made mistakes, leading to it sky rocketing. Yes the Chancellor of the Exchequer could and should have intervened, at the time it was happening.
    Ditto the Environment Agency. But it takes too long, doesn’t it, for ‘Ministers to intervene’.
    Are you sure Sir John that we are sufficiently a democracy for politicians to intervene when necessary?
    May be I am simply too impatient.
    Anyway I agree with your final paragraph. In fact it it past time Minsters assessed how well these independent bodies performed. It is past time many of them were abolished in my opinion.

  39. Ian B
    January 16, 2023

    “There is a disjointed contradiction at the heart of UK politics“ – there is a chunk of those in parliament that hold sway on how the establishment is run that appear to be working to a different agenda to what is expected of them.

    Sir John, the real question here is why is Government taking money from the taxpayer just to disperse it among those that wish to hide from being held to account? That hardly constitutes a sound democracy, a legitimate Government and more generally places the whole of parliament into supporting deceit against the people they represent.

    The very notion that someone or organisation can be supported by the taxpayer without the taxpayer knowing what they get for their money, demonstrate an attitude that the ‘little people’ don’t need to know – is arrogance beyond belief.

    UK politics is forcing itself into the gutter

  40. Lindsay McDougall
    January 16, 2023

    No. It’s time to ask whether these ‘independent’ bodies should exist. They contain many highly paid permanent employees. Contrast this with Consultants who are normally hired project by project with a defined time scale and budget. Sir John has sometimes railed against the hiring of Consultants but they are much better value for money than quangos.

  41. Kenneth
    January 16, 2023

    Furthermore, it gives more power to the unelected.

    Democracy has been badly weakened through the give away of power to quangoes, out-of-control civil servants and foreign powers (via treaties) and most of this unelected sector performs poorly.

  42. hefner
    January 16, 2023

    About the NHS, one main point rarely discussed is that in 2018 the UK had 2.5 beds per 1000 inhabitants ( ‘Hospital beds per 1000 people)’.
    The 2018 OECD average was 5.1 beds per 1000 inhabitants, France had 5.9, Germany 8.0, S.Korea 12.4, Japan 13.0.
    Obviously it is possible to say (as T.May said in Feb.’2017) that ‘thanks to medical advances, to the use of technology, to the quality of care … the average length of time for staying in hospital has virtually halved since the year 2000’ and that therefore the NHS is so brilliant that not so many hospital beds are required …
    Isn’t it a shame that the other countries have not been as good as the UK at improving their health systems? 😉

    Problem might be the UK is brilliant in medical research but rather dismal at dispensing care.

  43. Cuibono
    January 16, 2023

    Woo! Looks like tories have done something a wee bit brave re Scotland!
    If true and if I have got the right end of the stick.
    WELL DONE ( keep it up).

  44. glen cullen
    January 16, 2023

    ‘’Jaguar Land Rover has warned that its EV push could be under threat if it is slapped with fines for failing to meet tough government targets that force manufacturers to sell a certain proportion of electric cars by the end of the decade.’’ Netzero-watch
    Why is this government controlling, threatening and manipulating what manufactures wish to make …we need less government intervention – we don’t live in the soviet union

  45. Iain Gill
    January 16, 2023

    In the case of the NHS the complaints process is also biased and does not work

    The ICB’s, Integrated Care Board are not monitoring the detail of the complaints made against the bodies they commission services from. Allowing trusts to lie and never get found out.

    The Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman has an active campaign of complaint avoidance, by finding lots of nonsense reasons for refusing to take on complaints from the public.

    The trusts delay and refuse to issue “final letters” to patients which are needed to take a complaint to the PHSO.

    The Care Quality Commission is asleep on the job, the care provided in the NHS even during last summer… was sub 3rd world in many cases, lots of the current problems could have been predicted, lots of patient complaints are being ignored… and what has the CQC done… absolutely nothing.

    The complaints system is a nonsense, even when cases are found against trusts nothing ever changes.

    There is no iterative feedback loop from patients forcing improvements.

    And the complaints stats give a false sense of a green status.

    Its bent in favour of a woke lefty civil service and NHS management and exec layers.

  46. forthurst
    January 16, 2023

    Government ministers could not and should not involve themselves in the day to day activities of their
    departments; however, creating quangos and attempting to provide public services through permanent civil servants is also dangerous; these people study Arts subject at university so they involve themselves in
    in running departments with nothing to go on but their own prejudices and those of their colleagues. There was some barmy woman who thought the Somerset levels would be more pleasing if they hosted aquatic avian species rather than the ‘artificial’ environment created by neolithic English farmers. It would not be at all surprising if all the government departments harboured head-bangers with their various obsessions about how things aught to be; that is why politicians who can be got at by their colleagues and constituents should take direct control. By the same token it would be better also if we had a fair electoral system to enable the English people to elect those who were most capable of representing their interests rather those of foreigners and their alien priorities as we appear to have at the moment.

  47. John Waugh
    January 16, 2023

    The JR diary posts today and yesterday are like the beam of bright sunlight that pierces the leaden sky .
    The light of intelligent minds is shining through .

  48. Hope
    January 16, 2023

    What is your govt doing getting UK entangled and subjugated under EU defence/PESCO? Govt. Paper 9058 should be read by your MPs. Article in con woman gives every reason to be concerned for our sovereignty and give away of intellectual property for defence weapons and come under EU control for defence and security! What is your govt thinking? We voted leave!

  49. SimonR
    January 16, 2023

    Dear Sir John,

    On this subject, I find it quite strange that in the NHS, all this power has been taken from Ministers, but on a contentious topic like pay, the decision is batted back to them (albeit that they have tried, unsuccessfully, to shift responsibility to another independent body, the pay review board). It’s like quangos have all the power but must be protected from anything that could result in public disapprobation.

    You are right to tackle this issue; let’s hope for changes.


  50. Jim Whitehead
    January 16, 2023

    Diversity, Equality, Inclusion running through the health service?
    These three are actively fostered by the CQC and feature strongly and repeatedly in their questionnaires for those applying to be service providers. Quangos are active promoters of ‘woke’.

  51. MikeP
    January 16, 2023

    Sir John, my daily read of Social Media would suggest that the public know only too well that much blame can be attributed to the Bank of England over inflation and to the NHS Senior leadership over the crisis in healthcare. Likewise shortcomings in the Environment agency, OFCOM and others. My only surprise is that you and your colleagues haven’t picked up on this and done something about it. Of course the Left will continue to blame the government but right-leaning and right-minded folk are savvy enough to know who is at fault and doubtless incredulous at Ministers’ inability or unwillingness to call out these “experts”. It’s almost as though the Government, in wanting to appear to be in control of everything, as it should be actually, is picking up all the flak for others’ dreadful mistakes and inadequacies out of some sense of altruism, but more likely that it’s running scared of direct, hands-on management which would point the finger of blame more tangibly.

  52. Geoffrey Berg
    January 16, 2023

    A significant article here by John Redwood and basically I agree.
    However most politicians lack the ability and probably the will (as it wouldn’t be good for their cosy relationships) to challenge ‘the experts’. Typical of politicians was when I was a Councillor (long ago) one of my ward colleagues who said to me privately,”we pay the Council Officers a lot of money-so we ought to do as they advise”. Few Councillors were prepared to significantly challenge Officer advice. Now it is even worse with the Cabinet system. The portfolio holders are isolated without any colleagues to help them whereas sometimes on a Council Committee some committee member(s) from the controlling group would challenge Officer recommendations before decisions were taken. (Now that is almost impossible because after a decision is taken the majority party will feel obliged to defend the portfolio holder of their party who had agreed the decision.)
    I’m afraid I don’t think most M.P.s and Ministers are much better.
    It is too easy for Ministers (who otherwise usually slavishly follow and become accountable for Civil Service advice however poor) to relieve themselves of responsibility and claim it has been done by an independent body outside their control. (Councils did that with Council houses which used to be by far the biggest source of casework for Councillors.)
    Perhaps this dilution of democracy and certainly of democratic accountability should be considered by the 1922 Committee at a special meeting.

  53. […] Empowering Quangos undermines our democracy – John Redwood […]

  54. […] Empowering Quangos undermines our democracy – John Redwood […]

  55. alastair harris
    January 23, 2023

    you say that both main parties “believe in the NHS” and I suspect this is true, at least in public, but what does that actually mean? The NHS has by any resonable measure failed, and this is hardly a new thing. Certainly the level of failure has increased significantly as a direct result of covid policy, but it has been failing for many years, and the results of covid policy is not the only current issue facing it. It lacks meaningful competition with no patient choice, and suffers from incompetent management and all too powerful unionisation. Of course the suffering is actually with the poor unfortunate souls who can’t afford private health insurance!

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