Scrapping quangos 'not ideological', says Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude insisted today that the Government was not on an "ideological" drive to scrap quangos.

He said the main motivation for the decision to scrap outright 192 so-called arm's-length bodies was not to save money but to increase accountability.

Mr Maude told the Commons Public Administration Committee that the Government believed various public bodies had been set up in the past to avoid ministerial accountability for difficult decisions.

He told the MPs: "Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in parliamentary government."

Asked if the move to reduce the number of quangos overall from 901 to 648 was driven by the need for greater value for money, Mr Maude told the committee: "That was a secondary consideration.

"The primary consideration here has been to improve accountability. It is our view that in the past, various public bodies were set up in order to avoid ministers having to take responsibility for difficult decisions.

"That seems to us what ministers are for - taking decisions and justifying them."

Mr Maude said savings would still be made because of the Government's imperative to drive down administrative costs across government.

But he added: "The primary consideration throughout has been to increase accountability."

Mr Maude went on: "The concern we had was that too many bodies were setting policy in some cases, which it seems to us should not be done unless in a way that's directly accountable."

When it was put to him that decisions to scrap some bodies were ideologically driven, the minister replied: "I don't think they were ideological, or purely pragmatic. They are guided by some principles."

He said: "Our presumption is that something that's done by the state should be accountable. Decisions made should be accountable either through ministers to parliament or to a local authority."