Muzzled by men from the Treasury

John Garrett's letter (12 February) adds significantly to the cause for alarm over the way the Treasury has seized a central role in policy-making that I set out in the NS the previous week ("The great white shark of Whitehall"). But he is wrong to suggest the Treasury is not averse to the National Audit Office assessing the underlying policies that shape its public service agreements (PSAs) with Whitehall departments.

The NAO is currently prohibited by statute from assessing government policies; and Treasury spokesmen at a recent academic seminar were not at all happy about the idea of freeing the NAO to assess the policies behind the PSAs. But we agree on the essential point: there must be pluralistic scrutiny of the whole PSA process, in parliament, by other government departments and agencies of accountability such as the National Audit Office. Neither the Treasury nor the Chancellor should dominate policy-making in the way that they now do.

Professor Stuart Weir
Democratic Audit, University of Essex