LETTER: Our secretive government

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From Mr James Gibson-Watt

Sir: Sarah Hogg presents a quaint but blinkered view of the conduct of government in Britain ("Opening up the staff of politics", 26 September). She praises cabinet committees, agencies, self-governing bodies, regulators and inspectors as being a manifestation of open government. Really? Well, government may look more transparent from within; it certainly does not from without.

Mrs Hogg, in telling only half the story about how the UK government disburses its business, makes the mistake of believing that the citizen is only concerned with the delivery of service, and need not concern him/herself with the means of that delivery. She is wrong.

The other part of this story is of how nearly half of public expenditure is now disbursed by agencies whose activities are entirely obscured from public scrutiny and accountability, "new" or electoral. There is no sign of transparency in a quango board whose meetings are held in secret, the minutes (if such things exist) unavailable to the public. Our money is being spent in ways of which we can have no knowledge, by people appointed without explanation or election.

League tables, published standards and systems of redress are no substitute for the kind of accountability provided by democratically elected bodies meeting and taking their decisions in public. Voting is only part of the accountability process, the other is the ability to get information and view the day-to-day process of decision-making. This Government has forgotten that, or finds it inconvenient. It is not open and it will not do.


James Gibson-Watt

Hay-on-Wye, Powys