I wrote this on Monday evening:
Elected representatives v Unelected Quangos
I asked a senior Tory, now in the House of Lords, why there were so many unelected quangos like the Highways Agency, the Child Support Agency and yes, the Environment Agency. His reply was instructive. "Under Mrs Thatcher we were finding as ministers that we couldn't finish our Boxes before the next ones arrived. Eventually, to save our sanity, someone came up with a half way house. Ministers would be free to set strategy but would no longer have to micro-manage." Hence quangos - quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation.
Since Christmas the news has either been about UK rain or Ukraine (I wish that was my line). On the wet front, the pictures night after night, have been depressingly awful. The cameras have gone and the petty rows between a secretary of state and the chairman of the Environment Agency which belittled us as a nation, have been forgotten. But, if you have ever been flooded, it can take six to eight months to dry a house out. This leads to insurance companies renting for your family a caravan or places you in a B&B or a poxy hotel. Pretty awful if you have a young family, or are aged or run a business from home. We know from the London bombings in 2005 how long it takes for families to be compensated so let's hope we've leaned from that appalling situation so those so badly affected are given real help and support for the next year. Don't bet on it..
Quangos are here to stay. There will be more of them but their accountability needs toughening up. There are plenty of MPs time- serving on their respective benches. The government should re-construct Whitehall such that these agencies have a chairman who is an MP. They would not necessarily have to be from the government's side. It could be a kind of reconstruct of the current coalition concept.