Meg's analysis of the issues to watch across Whitehall from her perspective as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

Chair’s foreword

This Parliamentary Session:

  • The Committee has held 66 inquiries
  • Published 49 reports
  • Government agreed with 171 of 187 recommendations.

 

Welcome to my annual report.

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I join with my colleague Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, when she says of the recent River Lea industrial oil spill: ‘We must try and stop this happening ever again’. 

I have written to the Environment Agency (EA), urging that action be taken to contain such waste spills into the river, and for longer term planning to make sure better provision is in place to tackle such crises.

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As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee I have been conducting an investigation into the collapse of Carillion and I recently told Parliament: The system is broken.

There are not enough suppliers bidding for contracts across whole swathes of Government, and the system is skewed against smaller, specialist businesses that get work only as part of a longer supply chain.

At each stage, margins are squeezed, and too often we see poor service, sharp practice and an unnecessary cost to taxpayers.

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I am very concerned for some of my poorest constituents who are eligible for £140 off their energy bills through the Warm Home Discount but not receiving it, because of a legal restriction – you only get it if your energy supplier has more than 250,000 customers.

I have joined with other MPs across the main political parties in asking the Government to look again at making it possible for all such vulnerable consumers to receive the same guaranteed support, irrespective of who happens to supply their energy – as recommended by Citizens Advice.

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I have challenged the Prime Minister to intervene in the case of more than 13,000 Sainsbury’s workers who are being given a worse pay deal under what is described as ‘unscrupulous contract changes’ - leaving each of them up to £3000 worse off a year.

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I am pressing the Home Office to provide the proper and adequate resources required to deal with the new fast-route EU citizens settlement programme they are planning to introduce by November this year.

The Government has also declared an amnesty on Commonwealth citizens and is having to implement a helpline and support for the Windrush generation, which will extend to others.

I have asked the minister: ‘Does she seriously believe that, practically, the Home Office and the Government have the resources to deal with this, and can she reassure my constituents?’

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The Home Office has finally acknowledged its responsibility to British Citizens from the Caribbean - the Windrush generation. I am supporting a number of constituents.

But now, shockingly, we are finding other Commonwealth citizens who are in the same position. Where will all this end?

They are originally from Africa, but they are British, and yet they do not have the paperwork to prove it. The paper Immigration and Nationality Directorate ​letters that people come to my advice surgeries clutching have been enough to get them a job and their entitlements up to now.

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I have been challenging the Government time and again on the costs of Brexit. We are still woefully short on ​information, but I am on the march, with others, so I warn the Government - they had better be prepared.

The Public Accounts Committee, which I chair, and the Treasury Committee, are already pressing the Treasury and other Government departments about what the total cost will be.

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The law on use of digital images and consent needs to be changed.

Speaking in the House recently, I said the current law does not appear to recognise the difference between viewing someone naked, and filming/photographing someone naked - without consent.

Would most people be happy being deliberately filmed or photographed doing a private act, without having consented to the video or photo  – filmed by another person (partner, spouse or stranger) - despite the fact that the other person was present with them whilst the private act was being carried out?

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I met with Transport for London (TfL) recently about their proposed cutting down of bus routes through Hackney including plans to cut the 277 route between Dalston Junction and Highbury and Islington.

I stressed importance of an increase of frequency of the 30 bus - and other buses - to compensate for any such cut and ensure an even better link through to the tube at Highbury & Islington.

TfL will increase the frequency from seven to eight buses an hour, not enough to make up for the loss of the 277.

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