Thursday, 9 July 2009

Newt on the quangocracy.

Newton Emerson has a typically caustic take on the Alliance party’s recent tribunal wrangle with the Equality Commission. David Ford’s former PA had made a series on unfounded allegations of discrimination against her employers.

“Things became messier and murkier as a tribunal panel stepped down rather than hear a medical witness, the Alliance barrister accused the tribunal of bias and Ms Hawkins made demonstrably inaccurate statements. Finally, the case collapsed when the Equality Commission withdrew its financial support, citing an “irretrievable breakdown” with the plaintiff.”

Newt cuts to the quick of the tribunal resignations.

“All three panel members resigned because the chair had “difficulty” with a doctor testifying that Ms Hawkins had exaggerated her claim of disability. This was not because there was any doubt over the doctor’s testimony. It was because the panel did not think anyone claiming to be disabled should be doubted.”

A key point to be determined in the case was whether or not Ford had suggested that Eileen Bell, a party colleague, would be ‘out of her depth’ as Assembly speaker. Emerson observes,

“To portray legitimate criticism of a woman by a man as sexist by default is itself a witless prejudice.”

The thrust of the article is the usurpation of judicial functions by quangoes. Forwarding a particular agenda, powers which such bodies accrue are used on a highly partial basis, funded, of course, by the tax payer.

“The Equality Commission already has statutory powers of investigation and enforcement and a key objective of its corporate plan is “to effect change through strategic enforcement”. This makes the commission a sort of equality prosecution service, with a remit to pursue cases to advance its own agenda.”

A cautionary tale perhaps. Particularly relevant given the quangoes charter that forms the proposed NI human rights bill. If a Conservative drive to cut back quangoes is delivered Northern Ireland should not be outside its remit.


Anonymous said...

Back in November 2007, Danny Kennedy MLA, Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said that a national Quango-watch should be established to monitor the spread of arms-length government agencies or Quangos since national spending on such agencies had soared to £167.5 Billion in 2006, up from £24.1 Billion in 1998, an eightfold increase. He said :
“£167.5 Billion is an enormous sum of money. To put it in context, UK annual defence spending is £33.4 Billion, annual counter terrorist and intelligence spending is a mere £2 Billion, and total UK Government spending is about £370 Billion. So a £167.5 Billion annual spend on Quangos, shows the sheer dimension of this problem. It is about 45% of total government spending.”

“The Milk Development Council, for example, employed four officials in 1997. Now it employs 44 and spends £12 million a year paid for by dairy farmers, taxpayers and businesses. Another Quango - Construction Skills had 900 staff in 1998. Today it has more than 1,400.”
“Northern Ireland was run by Quangos for forty years so we face a greater problem than most areas. We must be careful not to replace them with a new generation of super-Quangos. Accountability should be our watchword.”

Timothy Belmont said...

I'm sure there is much duplication between quangos in NI and those on the Mainland which do essentially the same job. There must be dozens of marketing boards, commissions and bodies in the Province which could be swept away, thus saving us tens of millions of pounds; and thereby forcing directors and their minions to find proper employment.