Watch out for a major speech by Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, at Policy Exchange in London this Thursday on the accountability of Whitehall to Parliament.
This is going to be a historic moment for the relationship between MPs and mandarins and I am not expecting the doughty chairman of Parliament’s most powerful committee to pull any punches. I also expect it to ignite a big debate.
It is also important moment for people who believe that Parliament is just a talking shop. This is because it will show that MPs want action on the way our taxes are spent and even more so on who pays their taxes.
It is also about the honesty and integrity of Dave Hartnett, the head of the Inland Revenue (HMRC), and his attempt to get away with telling lies to MPs on a deal with one of biggest bankers, Goldman Sachs.
Suffice to say it reveals a massive tussle between Lord O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary and Mrs Hodge over whether civil servants are accountable to MPs or ministers – going to heart of the matter of whether MPs can stand up for us as taxpayers.
Lord O’Donnell ,who wrote the letter days before he retired ,has accused the Public Accounts Committee of publicly humiliating a senior law official at the revenue by making him swear on the Bible before giving evidence. He talks of widespread anger in Whitehall and in the legal profession about this.
But he ignores the reason – that the man’s boss, Dave Hartnett, had misled Parliament over a sweetheart tax deal he negotiated with Goldman Sachs saving them possibly billions in tax. He pretended it was nothing to do with him.
This is why people should back Margaret Hodge, her committee which includes very equally strong minded MPs like Tories Richard Bacon and Stephen Barclay in standing up for MPs and the public’s rights.
Thursday will light the blue touch-paper at Policy Exchange. If there are any seats left go and watch and hear. It’s free.