Friday, 20 August 2010

Effective Government?

I am indebted to m'learned friend for alerting me to the presence of a very important commission operating under the auspices of the Westminster Government - the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, known as the National Debt Commissioners - a commission which, I hear you say, is coming not a moment too soon, it's about time the National Debt was reduced.

I thought so too, and I was about to applaud the institution of this fine and well-thought-out organisation until I realised that I would be roughly 224 years too late (we'll have no comments about my working practices, thank you!), the body was established in 1786, the year that Robert Burns published his first collection of works (Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect), the year that the first prison ship sailed for Botany Bay, the year that Mozart's Marriage of Figaro premiered, and the year that the Affair of the Diamond Necklace helped prepare the ground for the French Revolution and the creation of the First Republic - interesting times, indeed. This bit is from page 85 of the list of Ministerial responsibilities of the new Government:

The Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt (CRND), established in 1786, primarily manage the investment portfolios of a number of government and public bodies including HM Revenue & Customs (National Insurance Fund), National Savings and Investments (National Savings Bank Fund), Her Majesty’s Courts Service (Court Funds Investment Account) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (National Lottery Distribution Fund). It also manages some residual operations relating to the National Debt including Donations and Bequests and 3.5 per cent Conversion Loan Sinking Fund. The statutory functions of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt (CRND) are carried out within the United Kingdom Debt Management Office.
There are eight commissioners:
  1. The Chancellor of the Exchequer
  2. The Governor of the Bank of England
  3. Deputy Governor of the Bank of England
  4. The other Deputy Governor of the Bank of England
  5. The Speaker of the House of Commons
  6. The Master of the Rolls
  7. The Accountant General of the Supreme Court
  8. The Lord Chief Justice

How often do they meet? Well, back to the UK Debt Management Office:

Meetings of the Commissioners were at first held regularly, but the last recorded business meeting took place on 12 October 1860.
Move along, move along, nothing to see here! They leave the responsibility for managing down the national debt in the hands of two civil servants. I have no doubt that they are extremely competent civil servants but surely the elected politicians would want to be in control of such an important function? If you were hoping that the Government of the day in Westminster was keeping an eye on the massive debt then it's probably best you don't look at the other pages on the Debt Management Office site. I looked at the sections on accounts hoping to see some figures that I could ponder upon. Alas and alack, it would appear that I must seek such information elsewhere.

That'll be for another day, I think. Mind how you go!

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