How Ministers can and should supervise government bodies

There are three main roles for Ministers to perform when supervising and sponsoring quangos or so called independent government bodies.

The first is to supervise the expenditures of public money. These bodies often rely on substantial grant income which needs to be agreed with Ministers and approved by Parliament as part of the annual national budget. A Minister can reasonably ask for a budget meeting with the quango to discuss their financial needs and to indicate to them likely financial support levels. There may need to be follow up exchanges depending on the negotiations within government with the Treasury about what is affordable.  The budget meeting is a good opportunity to review the aims and resources of the body, to press for better value for money and to define precisely for the following year what is expected and what is needed by way of financial support. This is a process which gets reported to Parliament and can be subject to debate if the budget of a quango becomes a matter of public or Opposition concern.

Some of these quangos depend in whole or part on money they raise from charging user  fees and licence fees on those who use their service. Usually the fee levels are regulated under legislative powers by Statutory Instrument. Often these bodies want annual fee increases which will need SI amendment and therefore Ministerial and Parliamentary approval. Under weak Ministers there is a tendency to accept any fee increase proposal the body requests, and to hope that the Opposition in Parliament will not bother to query or debate it. As left of centre oppositions rarely object to higher public sector fees and charges it is particularly incumbent on Conservative Ministers to be vigilant in the public and user interest. This is another variant of the  budget review and conversation.

The second is to review and report on the annual performance of the body to Parliament. The Minister can ask to see a draft copy of the body’s annual report to review, or can require a meeting with the body after it has submitted its annual report to the sponsor department. This is another good occasion to review the aims and achievements of the body, to thank them if they have done well or to ask them to do better if they have not. It is a good idea for a Minister to show interest in the performance targets to be set for the ensuing year and in the performance achieved in the year under review. Again Parliament may if it wishes receive, read and debate the report of a government body.

The third is to require additional special meetings if the government wishes to change the aims and demands on the body, or if the body needs to report unexpected problems and difficulties, or if the Minister has become aware of a body of complaints and criticisms that are or will become public that he or she needs to answer. Such matters should of course be reported to Parliament unless there is some special good reason for confidentiality because for example matters relate to a vulnerable individual or to possible legal proceedings that must not be prejudiced..

Ministers are also entitled to become involved with recruitment to Boards of these bodies and to some of the senior  management positions. If there is to be a change of chairman or chief executive this is another good opportunity to review performance and ask questions about aims and targets for the future.

If there is a good  series of meetings for the more important quangos Ministers should avoid nasty surprises about the conduct and performance of these bodies, and the leaders of these bodies would stay well informed about the overall government policy context in which they are working and about the likely level of resources they will enjoy to carry out their tasks.  The bodies should remember they are governmental and part of a greater whole answerable to Parliament.  Ministers should remember they are  not the day to day managers , they  do not have quasi judicial powers over the regulatory work of these bodies and should not normally intervene in individual cases.

122 Comments

  1. Mark B
    May 1, 2021

    Good morning.

    What I would like to ask is, why do we need these QUANGO’s ? After all, we have never needed them before.

    Some of these quangos depend in whole or part on money they raise from charging user fees and licence fees on those who use their service.

    Let us take the, Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Here is a body that requires those that fall under its remit to pay fees to it. Why ? Why should private business have to pay an annual fee to tell other body that they hold data of others on their system ? Surely this is highway robbery made legal by Statutory Instrument.

    We seem to be adopting the European system of regulation ie You cannot do anything unless you have the correct paperwork and, with such paperwork comes a fee. This overtime leads to corruption as we see in other countries. It can also lead to mission over creep and bureaucratic delay. The latter of which is why Europe and especially the EU and Club Med countries do so poorly when it comes to productivity.

    I want to see fewer QUANGO’s, as constantly promised, and zero or once only fees. I also want to see what those working for such bodies are earning with no one earning more than the PM.

    Less is more.

    1. MiC
      May 1, 2021

      The idea of a body dealing with complex matters being “supervised” by anyone from the current Tory pool of “talent” is quite comical, really.

      1. No Longer Anonymous
        May 1, 2021

        What is comical is that you think a body created to solve a problem is keen to make itself redundant by … solving the problem !!!

        1. MiC
          May 1, 2021

          These bodies should in many cases not exist. They should simply be departments of the Civil Service, and the respective ministers should be accountable for their performance under them.

          Salaried staff make their lives easier by being efficient, and there is no money in it for them in breaking rules.

          Yours is a Counsel Of Despair as ever.

          1. No Longer Anonymous
            May 1, 2021

            Pffff.

            Mine is a council of despair because – whichever way we vote – we get socialism… in the form of bodies that perpetuate problems in order to justify their existence.

          2. Peter2
            May 1, 2021

            Make your mind up MiC
            One minute you want local decision making.
            Next you want independent bodies making decisions.
            Now here you want centralised decision making.
            Hilarious as usual.

          3. MiC
            May 2, 2021

            You assume far too much, Peter.

          4. Peter2
            May 2, 2021

            I’m assuming that you will apologise for your recent incorrect post having misread a Guardian article at sometime MiC.
            Or will you just continue with your fake news.

      2. Hope
        May 1, 2021

        JR, your party has been in govt ten years, it has failed to deliver the bonfire of quangos it promised. It created more and put socialists in charge!

        Your govt.’s furthered Labour’s socialist aims by building on its policies like Climate Change. Your govt.s even put former Labour ministers in charge like Milburn and Odonis. Yes, Odonis!

        So you will forgive us for thinking you failed miserably to even be open and transparent in your comments by deliberating missing key elements concerning quangos. You recently cited Somerset levels without a mention of the extremely expensive but totally useless Environment Agency. It spends far more on salaries and pensions than infrastructure projects for flood defence. Without the interjection of the Royal family your govt. under Cameron would have done sweet FA. We now pay twice in tax, general tax for EA and an additional cost in council tax for rivers authority and flood defence!! The EA fulfilled the EU directive on environment to a ridiculous level causing floods. Your govt now built an urban ghetto of 22,000 houses on the edge of the levels!! Suggest, for those who made ill informed comments, Angel Dix history on the levels flooding or the Somerset journalist (Booker) opposed to climate change.

        Could you at least explain why your party and govt.’s (x3) failed to keep election promises to get rid of quangos and increased the number instead?

    2. Bryan Harris
      May 1, 2021

      ++ Indeed

    3. jerry
      May 1, 2021

      @Mark B; “Why should private business have to pay an annual fee to tell other body that they hold data of others on their system ? Surely this is highway robbery made legal by Statutory Instrument.”

      Not highway robbery but, in prior decades, such Statutory oversight would have been funded from simple taxation. But once again the hard capitalist misses the real issue here, why so many companies need to hold such data of others on their systems, beyond current and past employees, or current customers, constant with HMRC rules etc.

      “[excessive regulation] overtime leads to corruption as we see in other countries.”

      Corporate corruption exists what ever the rules, if you think ‘light-touch UK’ was free of corruption, or pure criminality, in the past you are either in total denial or (were) living on Mars! The European style of regulation was often brought in to regulate such abuses here in the UK.

      “I also want to see what those working for such bodies are earning with no one earning more than the PM.”

      Not that sensational Tabloid nonsense again, the UK PM is grossly under paid for starters…

    4. acorn
      May 1, 2021

      More and more legislation is created by Statutory Instruments via delegated powers taken by ministers in parent (primary) legislation. Less and less appears on the face of the Bill. That has been particularly obvious in this Brexit and Covid era. Hence more and more of the HoC legislative powers are delegated to Downing Street. Less than half of SI legislation ever gets properly scrutinised and can’t be changed in the legislature.

      Lord Hailsham warned that Britain was in danger of sinking into an ‘elective dictatorship’ because of its make it up as you go along non-constitution. This last decade and particularly Boris Johnson’s government has made Parliament more of a sideshow.

      The Public Bodies Act 2011 went nowhere and the Great Repeal Bill was dead on arrival. At least Parliament can recognise King Henry VIII powers that enable ministers to amend or repeal primary legislation by Statutory Instrument and make the HoC closer to redundancy.

      1. Peter2
        May 1, 2021

        acorn
        I’ve not heard you making the same criticism of Blair and Brown when they governed in the same way outside both Parliament and even their own Cabinet.
        Presumably that either went unnoticed or was fine by you.

    5. J Bush
      May 1, 2021

      Re the ICO. Even Parish Councils, some of which only get about £3,000 a year, have to pay £40.00 p.a. They also have to pay for 2 annual audits, any basic costs, such as office supply expenses etc, on top of paying a clerk generally up to 5 hours a week.

      Who, along with the councillors (who don’t get paid) have to deal with the ever-growing ridiculous bureaucratic box ticking overkill. All apparently necessary, under the guise that politicians can claim they are letting ‘joe public’ have a greater say. Balderdash! This is nothing more than pushing accountability and responsibility down to the lowest common denominator. County level pushes it down to district and town level, who then push it down to parish level.

      I would genuinely like to see if a politician could do this parish clerk job. Deal with all this quango nonsense. Create and annually update the numerous plans and policies required. The risk assessments, along with all the other accounting and clerical work, earning £10.00p.h. if they are lucky.

      Rant over.

      1. J Bush
        May 1, 2021

        I forgot to mention the another quango cost, NALC – the national association of local councils. The parish council I am involved with have to pay over £300 this year.

    6. Lifelogic
      May 1, 2021

      Exactly.

      Ministers are the only people who can stop these government bodies being almost entirely parasitic on the private sector. Often both charging them and inconveniencing them with usually absurd OTT regulations that just grow and grow. Ministers and MP are the only people who have any interest at all in making these organisation do anything useful or of value to the public. In the main they fail in this task and the public bodies, in the main, do huge net harm to the economy. So they are run mainly for the benefit of their employees and to enlarge their power base.

    7. forthurst
      May 1, 2021

      The Information Commissioner’s role is to supervise the Tory Party’s General Data Protection Regulation which was conceived by the EU to deal with online marketing organisations like Facebook which maintain databases on people’s lives so that they can be sold stuff through targetted advertising.

      Needless to say when the Tory party enacted the GDPR, they added bells and whistles such that voluntary organisations were required to obtain permission to contact their volunteers by means of letter, email, phone call, text message etc individually and therefore to maintain a database with columns defining how contact can be made such that if someone is contacted by a means for which they have not given specific permission, even though they volunteered the information when joining, a complaint to the ICO followed by a massive fine could result. Of course, as this is unworkable Tory nonsense like most of what they do, nobody takes any notice of it.

      1. Mark B
        May 2, 2021

        Correct

        😉

  2. Andy
    May 1, 2021

    Ministers are mostly unqualified to run anything. They are not elected to government – they are appointed by a prime minister, also not elected to government, for political purposes. Most of them represent safe seats so they are, in effect, picked by a bunch of mostly old men.

    This cronyism is how you end up with a Cabinet full of blithering incompetents who most of us do not vote for.

    When we are run by rank amateurs, and we are, it is unsurprising that things regularly go wrong.

    Reply Is this your assessment of past Labour governments? So you wish to end elected democracy.

    1. SM
      May 1, 2021

      If you are the Chief Executive of an NHS hospital trust, you don’t prescribe medicines or transplant hips yourself, you instigate and manage all the available physical and financial services needed for the medical staff to carry out their tasks – similarly if you are a Minister, you do not ‘run’ anything, you co-ordinate political policy and financial support to ensure your Government’s aims are successfully achieved.

      For instance, what qualifications did Gordon Brown have to be Chancellor of the Exchequer? His degree was in History, his work experience was just as a college lecturer and TV journalist.

      1. Lifelogic
        May 1, 2021

        Indeed and a complete disaster Gordon was as Chancellor and indeed as PM. He used to claim he was a follower of Adam Smith, yet he clearly had not understood anything the man had written.

      2. Fred.H
        May 1, 2021

        so what does a PM do? – – – ‘instigate and manage all the available physical and financial services needed’ ?
        Then its FAIL FAIL FAIL.

        1. SM
          May 2, 2021

          No, like the Chairman of the Board, perhaps, he assigns Directors to manage different Departments.

    2. Fred.H
      May 1, 2021

      But Sir John, the thrust of his point is fair and with some justification surely?
      Moving Ministers around from one proven inability, to then wreak havoc on yet another makes the point.

      1. Fred.H
        May 1, 2021

        holding back again?

    3. Andy
      May 1, 2021

      Yes. It is my assessment of past Labour governments too. I am not a Labour supporter.

      Ministers are not elected to their ministerial roles. They are appointed. They are appointed by a prime minister who is also not elected to his or her role as prime minister.

      I don’t recall anyone outside of Uxbridge voting for Boris Johnson. For that matter, most of the people in Uxbridge didn’t vote for him either. Yet the majority is lumbered with a man who is demonstrably unqualified and unsuitable for his job.

      Just because we have always done things this way does not mean we always should. Most people in this country think politics isn’t working. Including many of the contributors to your blog. So perhaps the problem is the system? Maybe we need to scrap it and start again.

      I have no problem with a system that represents people more or less in proportion to their votes. But I don’t see why a Conservative or Labour minority should ever be able to ride roughshod over the majority.

      1. John Hatfield
        May 1, 2021

        Good comment Andy.

        1. No Longer Anonymous
          May 1, 2021

          I don’t believe that Andy has EVER voted Conservative. And I never complained about the voting system when Blair and Brown ruined the country. So what is good about Andy’s comment ?

      2. Peter2
        May 1, 2021

        Despite your hatred of the Conservatives andy, they have a higher poll lead than when they were last elected.
        With joke parties like the Greens and Lib Dems getting low single figure percentages in every poll.
        With policies and attitudes that the majority of voters reject continually.
        Even under PR the Conservatives would have a healthy Parliamentary majority.

    4. No Longer Anonymous
      May 1, 2021

      Sounds like he wishes to end old men as well, Sir John.

    5. jerry
      May 1, 2021

      @Andy; “This cronyism is how you end up with a Cabinet full of blithering incompetents who most of us do not vote for.”

      As our host points out, your diatribe described both the 1994-2015 Labour party & their 1997-2010 period in government very well, even down to having appointed short-lists for their PPCs, often based on anything but expertise, often in safe seats!

    6. Richard1
      May 1, 2021

      We have a number of excellent ministers. Obviously the PM. The chancellor is probably the best qualified person ever to have held that post. Michael Gove has made an immense difference in areas he’s been involved in, especially in raising standards in education. And Liz Truss has triumphantly now signed trade deals with just about all those countries which were formerly covered by EU agreements, and is poised to add more, including most excitingly putting the U.K. into the CPTPP. You of course were sneering for 5 years that this was inconceivable.

      Doubtless there are others. That’s why you keep losing elections.

      1. jerry
        May 1, 2021

        @Richard1; Cough, it is the 1st May today, not 1st April…

        As for Trade deals, I await the detail, not just the headlines, those trade deals with countries which were formerly covered by EU agreements need to offer additional benefits to UK business and/or consumers, otherwise there is a real danger of europhiles asking what was the point of Brexit if nothing changes – and they will be correct.

      2. Andy
        May 1, 2021

        Photocopy Liz is a good minister? LOLZ as the kids would say.

        She is certainly adept at self-PR but less good at trade.

        She has negotiated precisely no trade deals which are both beneficial to our country and better than deals we had as an EU member.

        Most of her deals are, at best, roll overs.
        Many are on worse terms. The one she is negotiating with NZ benefits NZ but comes at a net loss to the U.K. – according to the government’s own figures.

        I don’t think I ever doubted the ability of the Brexitists to negotiate worse terms for our trade. Indeed that is what your Brexit is about. But keep pretending you won something.

        How are your fish doing?

        1. Lifelogic
          May 1, 2021

          You are I take it being satirical I assume Richard1?

          “We have a number of excellent ministers. Obviously the PM. The chancellor is probably the best qualified person ever to have held that post.”

          Sunak’s first Act. was to deter business creators and owners by reducing entrepreneurs CGT relief from £10 million to just £1, he has not cancelled HS2, has fallen for all the insane green subsidies and war on CO2. He even thinks that people should pay extra taxes so as to pay 50% of other people’s restaurant bills. The man is a deluded, tax, borrow, print and piss down the drain socialist (and an Oxford PPE graduate and lock down enthusiast too).

          1. Richard1
            May 1, 2021

            I did not say I agree with everything he has done, bst that he is on paper well qualified for his role

          2. jerry
            May 2, 2021

            @Richartd1; “he is on paper well qualified for his role”

            Sorry but can you point me to which major listed PLC the current Chancellor has been a director or employee of, beyond Hedge and investment funds/banks, and for how long?

            A quick trawl through past Chancellors of the Exchequer the last person I would remotely call “qualified”, looking at their lives and careers before entering the ‘Westminster village’, was John Major…

        2. No Longer Anonymous
          May 1, 2021

          Yup.

          You’re down wi’ da kidz, Andy.

          Oldest swinger in town.

      3. Paul Cuthbertson
        May 1, 2021

        Gove is one big snake in a den of vipers. Unfortunately Pritti Patel is restricted in her objectives by the UK Establishment. Hancox is unfit for office. Kwasi Kwarteng has absolutely no idea about energy but went to Eton . Boris also went to Eton and his goal in life was to become PM, but is no leader. His tenure at the Spectator is proof of that.
        I could go on and on however Nothing can stop what is coming, Nothing.

        1. Jim Whitehead
          May 2, 2021

          +1

    7. steve
      May 1, 2021

      JR’s reply to Andy –

      “Is this your [Andy’s] assessment of past Labour governments? So you wish to end elected democracy. ”

      Mr Redwood, on this occasion I feel obliged to defend our fellow contributor’s comments. He is correct to say that ministers are rarely selected on the basis of experience and skills. If they were, I can assure you vast sums of taxpayer’s money would not have been wasted by government after government.

      We have governments letting our manufacturing base go to rack and ruin, yet unsurprisingly there is never a minister who has served a craft apprenticeship, or even worked on a factory shop floor.

      It’s a common analogy in many vital areas of national importance, defence ministers for example – was there ever one who was a sapper or squadie ?

      No, I think Andy is right. Cronyism and bean counters do not make for good government. Recruitment needs to come from the shop floor, as it were. Otherwise you end up with, as he says, ‘blithering incompetence’.

      The problem is not unique to Labour, ALL governments are run on the wrong model of ministerial selection, it has always been the case.

      1. Lifelogic
        May 1, 2021

        Rather little ability & talent in the selection pool alas. Almost zero with any science, energy, maths, logic, engineering or any real understanding of sound economics.

    8. Dave Andrews
      May 1, 2021

      The competent people who would be good in government are running their successful businesses and don’t wish to leave them to stand for parliament.
      All we have is left wing activists and those who don’t believe in anything, care for no one and just wish to pursue a political career.

      1. J Bush
        May 1, 2021

        +1

      2. Lifelogic
        May 1, 2021

        +1 with perhaps just ~ 80 sensible exceptions in the House.

    9. agricola
      May 1, 2021

      It is incredulous to suggest that an electorate of say 40 million have sufficient knowledge of anyone to suggest he might make a good foreign secretary. The democracy, you consider absent, produced the first selection at the General Election. Therafter the PM also democratically elected at first tier and later democratically by his peers should be free to select his Cabinet and Ministers, also elected, to serve in his government . I do not think that selection by an intellectual incontinent , based on what you write, such as yourself is likely to result in the perfection in governance you rant for.

    10. Lifelogic
      May 1, 2021

      People well qualified to run thing often still run them appallingly when they are in the state sector. This as it is not their money and not they who benefit from it being run well or remotely in the public interest. They need the right incentives but almost never get them. We need more people like:- Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong.

    11. MiC
      May 1, 2021

      Let’s just consider one figure.

      Reportedly, the private water and sewerage companies discharged, unlawfully, untreated sewage into UK streams and rivers over 400,000 times during the last period.

      Not ONE has been prosecuted.

      THIS is Tory Britain.

      1. Lifelogic
        May 1, 2021

        They clearly have totally the wrong incentives in place. Rather like the NHS.

        1. MiC
          May 1, 2021

          If you can make money by breaking rules, and you know that there will be no consequences, then that is what will happen.

          That is the general case for the private sector, and it has led to the shambles in which the country finds itself.

          It tends not to apply to salaried staff in the public sector, but the Tories want rid of them, of all of them ideally.

      2. steve
        May 1, 2021

        MiC
        +1

      3. Fred.H
        May 1, 2021

        and to help The Met Office probably reported ‘ it rained a lot’.

      4. Peter2
        May 1, 2021

        As I said to you previously MiC
        If you have evidence of breeches in Environmental law report it to the Environmental Agency.
        They are the body who investigate and bring many prosecutions.
        It is nothing to do with Tory Britain.
        Either it is actually illegal or it isn’t .

        1. Peter2
          May 1, 2021

          I’ve now researched and found the article in the Guardian that MiC refers to as 400,000 discharges into English waters last year.
          I have the article here in front of me Wednesday March 31st 11.34 bst.

          We deserve an apology from you MiC.

          You said “unlawfully” and protested “no one has been prosecuted”

          This is completely fake news posting from you.

          It isn’t illegal as the article in the Guardian makes perfectly clear.

          1. MiC
            May 2, 2021

            Well that makes Tory Britain even worse!!!

      5. Peter2
        May 2, 2021

        Nothing to do with Tory Britain MiC
        You are so left wing even the Guardian disagrees with you.
        It isn’t illegal as you claimed.
        Apology is required from you for fake news.

    12. Fedupsoutherner
      May 1, 2021

      Andy, You mean like lovely Ursula of the EU who couldn’t get vaccines right.

    13. jon livesey
      May 1, 2021

      Spot the begged question. If Ministers are “unqualified”, what exactly is the qualification? Who is going to decide who is qualified and who is not?

      Andy obviously doesn’t get it, but Democracy is the answer to this question. And when you look at countries that have been run by “professional” politicians , you can see why.

      Every Socialist country boasts of having Governments that are “objectively” qualified to do their jobs – which is why they don’t need to be elected -and what has that got us? The USSR stumbling along through seventy years of depression like conditions, followed by Chernobyl. Venezuela systematically destroying its own economy and transferring the wealth to Swiss Bank accounts. China punishing its citizens for making jokes.

      I’ll take amateurs any day.

      1. SM
        May 2, 2021

        Dear Jon, the qualification is that each individual politician should prove to be completely in line with MiC’s personal beliefs – it goes without saying!

  3. J Bush
    May 1, 2021

    Good idea and that is how it should be.

    Sadly that requires responsibility, accountability and effort from said ministers and very few of them even have any business experience or aptitude.

    It would appear, the bulk are there, not for the good of the country, but because they are attracted by the cushy income and overly generous benefits and once there, sod the people who actually have to pay it. It would also appear many use the 2 Houses more like ‘Speakers Corner’ and relish the opportunity to stand on their lefty/wokey holier than thou, do as I say not as I do, soap box.

    To work their way up to and to keep their ministerial position, they need to follow the party line of continued business incontinence and myopic idiocy.

    So in conclusion, I don’t think your suggestions will happen.

    IMO we need a new system. Whereby candidates can’t just spout nonsense to get elected, but must have a proven track record of successful business experience/achievements. I would certainly like to see far less PPE’s, mediocre solicitors and sjw’s.

    1. jerry
      May 1, 2021

      @J Bush; “we need a new system. Whereby candidates can’t just spout nonsense to get elected, but must have a proven track record of successful business experience/achievements. “

      A new system?! What you suggest above is what we used to have, when MPs were mostly drawn from boardrooms and the Trade Union movement. The problem is, with our modernised Parliament the ‘office hours’ nature of the debates, and remuneration/allowance structures, are unlikely to fit well with active directorships or the like. Thus politics has become the primary career, not a secondary career for those with a proven track record of successful business experience/achievements.

      1. dixie
        May 2, 2021

        +1

    2. turboterrier
      May 1, 2021

      J Bush
      Re: IMO. Totally correct, there needs to be a completely new set of application criteria to be met before you are even considered of initial interview for selection. Will all the central offices bring about this change to increase the efficiency and productivity of parliament? NO
      With the correct industrial, commercial skills and proven experience, then you can get rid of the quangos because they will not be needed in their present format and that will save millions for the tax payers.

    3. IanT
      May 1, 2021

      I’m not sure what “sjw’s” are? Is that a modern version of spiv? 😉

      IanT

      1. J Bush
        May 1, 2021

        Apologies for the acronym, but your use of the word spiv is actually a very good description of sjw = social justice warrior.

  4. agricola
    May 1, 2021

    It would seem to me, that if these bodies/quangos are to work well it is up to the quality of the minister and his experience in the real world of business and administration and not least his ability to lead. It surprises me that governments all too readily move ministers around and frequently just discard real talent to the back benches where it is either dormant or a running sore. Beyond that it is difficult to comment except to say that those bodies that did the bidding of the EU must now be made to realise that they now work solely to implement UK government policy.

    1. IanT
      May 1, 2021

      Practices, attitudes and habits wrt the EU that have taken over 40 years to form within our Civil Service, are not going to be changed very much in just 4 months.

      The EU’s feeble Vaccine response (and generally unhelpful attitude) has helped shift the views of some (pro-EU) people I know quite a bit. They are not quite so accepting of the pro-EU propaganda our media tends to pump out for a start. From what I’ve seen, Brussels are dumb enough to keep their negativity going full flow – and I do think this will only act to push more UK opinion away from them.

  5. DOM
    May 1, 2021

    I know our kind host has to be seen to maintain an impartial stance on such matters but surely he can see that it is now a matter of absolute necessity and indeed of moral urgency that that such bodies or either disbanded (which is a matter of political will so that won’t happen now the Tory party seeks an easy political life without undue attacks from the vested interests of the Octopus, Common Purpose left) or aggressively reformed.

    Such bodies have become centres of Labour political power and influence designed to promote changes not in the public interest but in the political and electoral interests of the Labour party, the unions and their regressive and destructive political and social changes that are driven by a most pernicious and sinister ideology.

    This re-engineering of the machinery of government designed to circumvent democracy and accountability is pure client (the client being Labour and their allies) State politics. We can all see that. John can see that so why does he accept this and why does his party accept this appalling state of affairs?

    Why should the taxpayer have to finance this open abuse of our system of government? The Democrats are now pursuing this same Socialist strategy under the guise of the bogus ‘Infrastructure spending’ policy. Their aim is nothing less than the creation of a system that locks out the opposition and provides power without interruption from democracy. That is fascism or call it Marxism, ‘brothers in arms’ as Churchill called it

    The CPS, OFCOM and the electoral Commission. Three bodies out of control. The Tories response? Nothing. Starmer was head of the CPS and now he’s Labour leader. Separation of powers? I don’t think so. Tory response? Silence. Why?

    The BBC Marxist and racial agenda. Tory response? Silence

    I am coming to the conclusion that the Tory party and Mr Redwood are quite happy to accept this state of affairs, pass the cost in higher taxes and fewer freedoms and exposure to their extremist agenda, for a life without aggressive attacks from the activist left that now appears to have the whip hand over all things and are driving home their advantage across the board

    The British people are the victims. We are exposed to Marxist social engineering with the requisite loss of freedoms and demonisation that this entails

    It is quite simple John. Your party has hung us out to dry to save your party’s own skin. That is intolerable and will lead to dislocation in the future. The Tories should hang their heads in collective shame and admit that ‘going with the narrative’ will destroy all that we are

    1. Fred.H
      May 1, 2021

      the last para says it all.

      1. Fred.H
        May 1, 2021

        holding back what you don’t like again!

    2. Everhopeful
      May 1, 2021

      +1

    3. turboterrier
      May 1, 2021

      DOM
      Good post Dom. Politicians of every colour fail to realise that in the real world perception is all there is.
      If PP, MH even BJ don’t understand that in their particular departments we the tax payer’s perception is that the dingy people or the NHS is not performing as we expect, all theBS in the world will not change that no matter how fervently they believe they are performing well. Listen to the people by walking the talk. Few believe that all these e mails sent out to talk to ministers actually ever get read by them as they will be filtered out by their civil servants.

    4. No Longer Anonymous
      May 1, 2021

      The quangocracy seeks to ensure its own existence by perpetuating the problems it was created to solve.

      It has no other strategy than to make things worse.

      A cloud for every silver lining. A problem for every solution. A new category of thought crime. A new subsection of race or sexuality… and on.

      So pop your mask back on. The Covid Police are about and they won’t be going away anytime soon.

      1. Jim Whitehead
        May 2, 2021

        NLA +1

    5. Mark B
      May 2, 2021

      It was clear under the Blair years that the Tories were very happy to go along with many of its policies and only offer token opposition. That is why he got such an easy ride, and that is why he is back like a bad smell that won’t go.

      1. Jim Whitehead
        May 2, 2021

        Mark B +1,
        So many damaging policies and nudges of opinion ever leftwards and the Conservatives never seemed to be able or ready to Make The Case in opposition to the gathering murk.
        Margaret Thatcher was sidelined in disgraceful fashion and the Pretenders lost me as they lost their compass.

    6. Jim Whitehead
      May 2, 2021

      DOM +1

  6. GilesB
    May 1, 2021

    Many Quangos should not exist.

    Some were set up because of failures by other Government bodies. For example, the result of inadequate policies for handling complaints leads to calls for an ‘independent’ appeal body. Because the Quango is set up, the flawed policies and practices for complaints remain unchanged. For all such bodies, the overarching aim must be to amend the policies in the originating Organisation, and wind themselves up.

    Some were set up because of an unaddressed need. For example, industry training boards. The ministry responsible for the industry should have acted as a catalyst for industry training, but didn’t. Because the Quango was set up, the ministry still doesn’t pay enough attention to the training needs of the industry.

    Some were set up to improve communications between other bodies, public sector and private sector. They don’t. They provide another layer of excuses for line managers to not talk to each other.

    Each is a symbol of a failure of governance. Each should be a red flag for a reforming conservative minister to ask first ‘Why does this quango exist?’, and if there is a real need, secondly ‘Could its objectives be achieved better by other means?’, and if the mechanisms it provides are appropriate, thirdly ‘Could this role be better performed by other parties.’.

    They shouldn’t exist. In foundation there should be a sunset clause.

    They are at best a sticking plaster that prevents the cure of the underlying problem. Typically they make the problem worse. They are always a significant hurdle to progress and innovation.

    A reforming government would eliminate them all.

    1. turboterrier
      May 1, 2021

      Giles
      Reforming government?

      Whenever did we last have one of them?

  7. Iago
    May 1, 2021

    Wonderful Declaration of Independence in Conservative Woman, describes this criminal and lying government exactly.

  8. Mike Wilson
    May 1, 2021

    I would love to see a spreadsheet containing six columns.

    Name of QUANGO
    Purpose of QUANGO
    Number of staff
    Salary of chief executive per annum
    Total salary bill per annum
    Total cost to taxpayers

    1. Mike Wilson
      May 1, 2021

      Just found this.

      https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/jul/07/public-finance-regulators

      A full list of QUANGOS with costs on a spreadsheet. It seems there are 1164 of them. I will download the spreadsheet when I fire the old PC up.

      1. Fred.H
        May 1, 2021

        If it is old will it have memory storage sufficient to hold the rather long list ( ha ha ).

      2. hefner
        May 1, 2021

        MW, This list was established at the end of 2009 from information from the Cabinet Office.

        Could Sir John ask the present Cabinet Office to provide a list updated to 2021? I hope it should not be too difficult for him as a senior MP from the same party to get such a list from the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove.

        1. Mark B
          May 2, 2021

          Good point.

    2. Fred.H
      May 1, 2021

      you forgot ‘Usefulness’.

  9. majorfrustration
    May 1, 2021

    An interesting tutorial but what and who will make it happen. Same old same old.

  10. Bryan Harris
    May 1, 2021

    Sounds exactly what some ministers need: ‘An idiots guide to being an effective minister’

    It should also include hints to remind them that they are there to serve the UK public, not for the public to be treated as experiments or cattle. Imposing the will of the state onto individuals should never happen.

    After that a section on honesty would be required, stating that something will never happen while having concrete plans to make it happen, is bad news for those that get found out, but does destroy belief in politicians and democracy.

  11. formula57
    May 1, 2021

    What you describe sounds entirely adequate provided always that the supervising Minister is up to the job. Clearly, it is a help if the quango managers are up to their jobs too.

    Any deficiencies in personnel may well result in problems remaining undetected for some time. What about adopting Jimmy Carter’s notion of an inspector general system to quangos?

  12. Iain Gill
    May 1, 2021

    they could start by ensuring that all such bodies have IT Director or CIO or CTO who actually studied computer science and is not merely a BS merchant with a talent for glossy presentation to the political class.

    1. Lifelogic
      May 1, 2021

      “a BS merchant with a talent for glossy presentation to the political class” often abbreviated to a PPE Oxon. type I understand.

      Sir John Hicks, LSE Nobel Prize winner, in the brief biography required of winners by the Nobel Prize Committee wrote: “Philosophy, Politics and Economics” was not a success. I finished with no adequate qualification in any of the subjects I had studied.

      1. Lifelogic
        May 1, 2021

        I note that the NHS has been under by Jeremy Hunt then Matt Hancock and Sir Simon Stevens for many years all PPE Grads, I understand. Does anyone sensible think the NHS is remotely efficient and well run? Or even remotely safe! Did any of them do anything to sort the system out.

        1. Fedupsoutherner
          May 1, 2021

          Nhs Scotland managed to muck up 2 knee replacements and bodge a hip replacement which only needed doing because of the knee muck up. Transfusion, lung clot and seizure caused by their incompetence. Plus long term disability as my knee is STILL crooked.

          1. Fedupsoutherner
            May 1, 2021

            Forgot to add infection in hip replacement with a further 7 day stay in hell (hospital) and antibiotics for 6 weeks.

          2. Fred.H
            May 2, 2021

            When Scotland has gone and (we’ve) built the wall – good luck with NHS Scotland, you may have to investigate getting these jobs done privately in England.

  13. Sakara Gold
    May 1, 2021

    All very interesting. Perhaps you would care to explain how last year, the “Environment” Agency quango issued permits to the (foreign owned) water companies allowing them to discharge raw sewage into our rivers on over 400,000 occasions when it rained “too much”?

    In 2019 the “Environment” Agency reported that raw sewage was pumped into rivers 292,864 times, totalling 1.5 million hours. Last year, cases recorded rose to 403,171 after the numbers of overflows being monitored apparently rose by nearly 50 per cent, from 8,276 to 12,092.

    Ten water and sewerage firms released untreated human effluent into rivers and seas last year for 3.1 million hours. Clearly, the dumping of raw sewage into our rivers and seas is out of control. Where is the government oversight and control here? Could it be that the government has allowed this disgraceful situation to persist because the water companies involved needed to pay increased dividends to their foreign shareholders? Or was it Govey’s decision to cut their budget savagely and reduce the numbers of their inspectors when he was SoS for the Environment?

    1. a-tracy
      May 1, 2021

      John, you best warn Eustice (If he’s still in charge of environment I can’t keep up) this is where the next big push is going to come on the release of ras sewage by private water companies who are not being monitored properly by what a quango? His governmental department? Which agency should be monitoring and fining. The left have kindly highlighted the issue so let’s see how the Tories sort this out.

    2. Fedupsoutherner
      May 1, 2021

      That is disgusting.

    3. hefner
      May 1, 2021

      SG, Foreign shareholders obviously exist, but UK pension schemes also hold shares of companies like MIRA (Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, the Australian owner of Thames Water). Which means some UK pensioners also benefit from these dividends, albeit indirectly.

  14. Everhopeful
    May 1, 2021

    Quangos are also called “Arm’s Length Bodies”…suggesting I suppose that they can do their own thing and a blind eye will be turned.
    I have read that this is not how JR tackled them when he was a Minister. He insisted on regular meetings and scrutinising of accounts etc. Incredibly forensic no doubt…and absolutely the correct way to do it.
    If there are (unfortunately) such setups, then they need to be kept in check!

  15. No Longer Anonymous
    May 1, 2021

    When you create a body such as a quango, that body does not seek to solve the problems it was created to solve but seeks to perpetuate them in order to secure its own survival.

    That is why I am so appalled that they are recruiting hundreds of CV-19 marshalls. Those recruiting them do not want the pandemic nor the restrictions to ever end.

    Please, Sir John. Either do something about this or you and your friends quit en masse and do a Johnny Mercer.

    We have got a wobbling jelly and an Imelda Marcos wannabee in Number 10 and we are being forced to wear masks and take the knee.

    The one and only thing the PM has got right (the vaccine) is being squandered.

    1. No Longer Anonymous
      May 1, 2021

      I see that to end the 14 day quarantine for care home trips the Government has had to be threatened with legal action by The People.

      Are we going to have to take the Tories to court to fight to get back every one of our freedoms ?

      1. No Longer Anonymous
        May 1, 2021

        And class actions against the Tories so that kids don’t have to wear muzzles to school.

        Do

        We

        Have

        to

        Take

        The

        Tories

        To

        Court

        To

        Win

        Back

        Every

        One

        Of

        Our

        Freedoms ?

        And a blustering PM who who squanders the muck we’ve had pumped into our arms whilst enforcing the most draconian greenism on the planet whilst allowing his (allegedly) green wife run amok with the check book (whilst people are losing their jobs and livelihoods) is literally puke making.

        1. Jim Whitehead
          May 2, 2021

          NLA +1

  16. Peter
    May 1, 2021

    The article does not address cronyism.

    Many quangos and public appointments are filled with cronies. Some individuals have a full cv filled with roles obtained in this way.

    Failure is no obstacle. Look at the NHS and local authorities for examples of gross incompetence and failures moving from role to role.

  17. Richard1
    May 1, 2021

    Time to abolish the Blair-invented electoral commission. It appeared to show disgraceful bias following the referendum , many of its senior people have declared political positions which ought to be outlawed for such a body, and it has now chosen a moment a few days before widespread elections to suggest wrongdoing by the Conservative Party.

    I don’t know why we need an ‘electoral commission’, we managed perfectly well without one before 1997. But if we do have one it’s essential it’s members are held to proper standards of political impartiality.

  18. Alan Jutson
    May 1, 2021

    The simple question to answer is:

    If these quangos did not exist, would we invent them, would we set them up as they operate now, and would their remit, and the people who run them be employed on the same terms as now.

    If the answer is no to any of the above, then simply do away with them completely or set up a new fit for purpose system that will be fit for function.

    Why on earth do we need, what is reported to be over 1,000 quango’s of one sort or another ?

    1. graham1946
      May 2, 2021

      There would never be a ‘no’ – politicians love quangos. The only logical step is to reduce the size of the department using them by at least the number employed or the cost of the quango. Most departments wouldn’t last long if that was done.

  19. oldtimer
    May 1, 2021

    Thank you for that analysis. It exposes a big hole in the system – a fundamental deficiency. Nowhere is there any apparent attempt to get or study or understand feedback from the users/customers/clients/victims of these quangos. Without this discipline they are no better than unaccountable monopolies that will screw the rest of us. Ministers are supposed to represent the interests of these users/customers/clients/victims; they are failing in their duty to do so.

  20. David Brown
    May 1, 2021

    In my work I am some times sub contracted to work with a quango on specific areas of work that I specialise in.
    Generally I have always found them easy to work with and I feel they have a significant role to play.
    In my opinion a Minister responsible for a quango should take ultimate responsibility for the actions.
    Project costs usually over run although most are contained within contingency of 10% if not there are items that can be removed.
    Quangos dealing with complex projects often get a bad press however I my profession we need creative solutions to complex problems and that costs money.
    We focus on starting with the end in mind and often the total cost is a price worth paying whatever it is.
    NB good to see clubbing back even experimental wow I miss a good party and nightlife. When I’m old I never want to stop partying or listening to rap and club music. It’s my religion.

    1. turboterrier
      May 1, 2021

      David Brown

      When I’am old……
      Dont we all, problem is the brain says yes and the joints and lungs say no.

  21. Fred.H
    May 1, 2021

    OFF TOPIC.
    From BBC website.
    Curbs on the sale of house coal and wet wood for household burning in England have come into force under new rules aimed at cutting air pollution. People will still be able to use stoves and open fires but they will need to burn cleaner alternatives. These are the first restrictions on what people can burn in their homes since the clean air acts of the 1950s. The UK’s air is far cleaner now, but in recent years pollution from log burners has increased dramatically. Only 8% of households use them, but they are now the biggest source of the tiny pollution particles that are most damaging to health, according to government data.
    This is all very well but most people who have bonfires try to burn , but create smoke instead, various wet, meaning damp garden waste. Nothing done to stop this which annoys neighbours – yes me!

    1. steve
      May 1, 2021

      Fred H

      The banning of the sale of wet wood i.e. unseasoned, is solely to force people into more expensive energy bills.

      Green crap scammers i.e. governments especially this one don’t like the idea of people being independent in anything. People being able to budget and save is a bad thing.

      I have GCH but also have a large wood burner as the main heat source. I use locally sourced fork lift pallettes and the odd batch of logs. It will easilly get the house to 30 deg C in a jiff and use one pallette to achieve this.

      They can’t successfully stop people from burning wood. It’s a daft mad-capped idea. In fact the burning of waste wood and wind fall should be encouraged as doing so saves demand on energy supplies, but that would require a government of common sense and not in any way attached to the environmental lobby.

      1. graham1946
        May 2, 2021

        My tree surgeon has already stopped selling logs he felled. I have stocked up on two years supply and will worry about it after that. They were 2 year seasoned, always below 20 percent moisture, kept undercover when dry, but this idiot Government has put a stop to this business because the tree surgeon does not want the expense or time involved in installing and running ovens to dry them. The usual half cock government idea – once people buy artificially dried wood, how do they propose to ensure that they keep it dry? Are we to have the police round with moisture meters checking our wood pile once they have finished with giving out Covid fines? How do the ovens dry the wood? Mostly by gas, oil or burning wood! This has come about because hard of thinking ministers allowed wood burners in smokeless areas, simply because city cronies wanted a new fashion and to believe they are living the ‘good life’. Rather than cancel them in cities they go for the easy option of pricing out country dwellers from their fuel, (which they know how to keep and burn), rather than upset their trendy pals. The woods are not now going to be kept clean and tidy, but timber left to rot, giving off CO2 and becoming a future fire hazard, just as happened in Australia.

  22. William Long
    May 1, 2021

    In other words, the functions of the non-executive part of the Board, generally including the Chairman, of a well run public company.
    The problem at the heart of all this is the erosion over the years of the doctrine of Ministerial Responsibility, with the huge growth of the use of Quangos due to deliberate effort on the part of ministers to distance themselves from the functioning of the departments for which they are accountable.
    I cannot remember the number of time we have been promised reforms, ‘Bonfire of Quangos’ springs to mind, but nothing has happened, and the situation just gets worse and worse. Perhaps Mr Cummings should be offered a new job?

    1. turboterrier
      May 1, 2021

      William Long
      Mr Cummings with a new job?
      Yes I think I could pouch that. He seemed more aware of what the taxpayers and voters were thinking than his boss and cabinet.
      A lot of what is needed it’s already there in place. Problem is those that have all the attributes are banished to the back benches only to be called onto vote and support these unknowing, uncaring self glory hunting numpties we have been shackled with. Most of them neither use or ornament.

  23. oldwulf
    May 1, 2021

    “There are three main roles for Ministers to perform…”
    “The first is to supervise the expenditures of public money”
    “The second is to review and report on the annual performance of the body to Parliament”
    “The third is to require additional special meetings if the government wishes to …”

    The perception is that Ministers have been doing none of these things.

    “If there is a good series of meetings for the more important quangos …..”

    Who gets to decide which quangos are “more important” and therefore which quangos are less important ?

    Perhaps, at least initially, “more important” = “more expensive”.
    With a little luck, that might encourage quangos to become more efficient and become “less expensive” in order to delay ministerial scrutiny ?

    1. turboterrier
      May 1, 2021

      Oldwulf
      Quango’s more efficient?
      No brainer put them and their departments on PBR. Payments by results. The performance figures climb overnight and the serving my time ticket holders all take the early bath before being pushed. It has been happening in thousands of companies across the UK for years. It becomes a way of life and the best of the best always survive.

  24. The Prangwizard
    May 1, 2021

    I believe there was a time when it was possible to apply for town planning consent without having to pay. Now there is a charge and other fees have been added. These have not speeded anything up or increased efficiency. This and all the other charges imposed by the overpowering bureacracies are merely burdens on consumers and manufacturers, but government is happy because they add to GDP. We need more than polite discussions to get rid nearly all of them.

  25. Ian Pennell
    May 1, 2021

    Dear Sir John Redwood

    A lot of the fat from Government expenditure has been trimmed away during the Austerity years: However there is still scope to halve the size of Quangos and slash Whitehall in half without severely impacting on the running of the country- or hurting front-line Public services in the process. Up to £30 billion annually could be cut, which would help pay down the alarmingly high levels of Public Debt after the pandemic.

    But Boris Johnson and his government don’t have much goodwill left after the latest raft of Sleaze allegations towards him- these have dented Conservative support in the run-up to next week’s bumper local elections. You can only impose tough fiscal measures on the country- even slashing the size of Whitehall- if you retain the trust and goodwill of voters.

    I don’t know Sir whether you have read the most recent Survation poll- describing Boris Johnson as untrustworthy, most thinking he probably did make those comments about “bodies piling up”, etc. The Tory lead has dropped to 1% from 8% in the previous Survation Poll. Tonight’s Opinium Poll has the Conservative lead plunge from 11% to 5%- the Public now disapprove of Boris Johnson more than they approve of him but approve of Kier Starmer.

    When the results come in, showing Labour hold Hartlepool and gain a swathe of council Seats from the Conservatives you and your Tory colleagues must act quickly on the fact that Boris Johnson is now longer an asset- and has become an electoral liability for your Party. You need to get those letters in to Sir. Graham Brady ASAP! I say this as a Conservative and Brexit-supporter- the sooner Boris Johnson is toppled and the Conservative Party gets a Prime Minister to root out other bad apples the better it will be long-term.

    Ian Pennell

    1. Derek Henry
      May 2, 2021

      Morning Ian,

      I hope you and your family are well.

      “would help pay down the alarmingly high levels of Public Debt after the pandemic.”

      Please look at the ” asset side” of the balance sheet instead of just looking at the liability side.

      The government budget ” deficit” is the private sector ” surplus” .

      The national debt is just surplus moved into gilts.

      The reason the private sector ” surplus” is so big is because the economy was closed down. People saved and paid off their own private sector debt. Loans, credit cards etc.

      When the economy opens up again the private sector ” surplus” will reduce naturally as people spend their savings. This so will the government debt.

      1. Peter2
        May 2, 2021

        Please tell the Bank of England to create a magic million and send it to me.
        I will give you my bank details as soon as you confirm they are ready.
        You say endless amounts can be created out of thin air so can I have some too?

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