Select Committee on Liaison Second Report

6  Conclusion

88. Financial scrutiny is a fundamental part of the House's duty. Its purpose is above all to hold the Government, individual Departments and other public bodies to account for their financial decisions and financial management, and thereby to promote more effective and economical use of public money. It is not our intention that the time of the House, committees and Members should be dominated by financial scrutiny to the exclusion of all else. Instead it is a matter of restoring the balance, so that financial scrutiny can retrieve its proper place among the House's various activities.

89. There is no doubt that the House currently fails adequately to scrutinise the Government's financial decisions and financial management and to hold it to account for them. For far too long the House has shirked the task of providing itself with the means to carry out financial scrutiny effectively, and it is time that the House was more assertive in this area.

90. What is needed is not exhortation but practical steps. We have set out those steps in this Report, in three areas:

  • simplification of the Government's over-complex financial system;
  • improving the quality of the financial information provided to Parliament, which currently does not meet the House's needs; and
  • creating opportunities for Members to challenge the Government in financial matters and hold it to account.

All these changes are achievable, and, as we have argued above, they would benefit the Government as well as the House.

91. Further work will be needed to implement our proposals. And much would depend on how the House and its select committees and Members responded to any new opportunities. But we believe the changes we propose here would provide the basis for a major increase in the effectiveness of the House in scrutinising the Government and individual Departments and holding them to account, and thereby a significant impact on the quality of financial management by Departments and of the services they provide.

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