Week 17: Hero – Margaret Hodge MP

by Jackie_South on April 29, 2013

hero_icon2This week, our hero award goes to the Chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge

Despite no longer being on the  front bench, the MP for Barking is becoming one of Labour’s star performers of this Parliament.  She is using the chairmanship of the influential Public Accounts Committee to do what her front bench ought to be doing – holding the government effectively to account.

In the last week, she has made headlines not once, but twice.  First, in an interview with The Guardian on Monday, she criticised the shortening of Parliamentary hours.  Under Labour, it used to do a modest 152 days a year on average, but this year that figure looks likely to plummet to 140 days.  Just when Coalition MPs are calling others skivers, they are skiving off themselves with longer recesses.  Whilst committees such as hers are working for more days than that, Hodge rightly called the government out on this, saying “it feels as if we are hardly working”.

But it is her second intervention this week that deserves more credit.  Her committee identified the revolving door practice between government and the big four accountancy firms: government seconds tax experts from these firms to work on tax changes, and when the work is done, those same experts return to their firms, potentially to exploit the tax loopholes left by their own work.  On Friday, Hodge said that this was tantamount to a scam and a “ridiculous conflict of interest”.

She identified that the current relationship between these firms and government was an extremely unhealthy one  and let us not forget that the Treasury looses many times more revenue each year through tax avoidance than it looses through benefit fraud.  She recommended a code of practice to resolve this issue.

So, all in all a good week for Hodge.  No-one can accuse her of skiving.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth April 29, 2013 at 6:48 am

In fairness it should be mentioned that these committees were set up by a Tory government (I forget whether it was in 1970 or 1979) – Labour thought it could run the country without such scrutiny. They only survive because governments of both colours have learnt that they are toothless, and there are no votes at risk in ignoring them.

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Ray_North April 29, 2013 at 7:53 am

Yep – the wonderfully mad Norman St Stevas’ greatest gift to the nation in 1979. Perhaps the best thing the Tories did under Thatch!?!

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