The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) has today challenged Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, not to waste a penny of taxpayers' money establishing a "Recognition Panel" to which a self-governing press regulator is extremely unlikely ever to submit itself. The campaign group has also demanded to know whether any taxpayers' money has already been spent setting up a body that even Mrs Miller herself seems to admit would be entirely redundant.
Mrs Miller indicated to Andrew Marr on television yesterday that nothing else would need to happen if the press's own proposed regulator (IPSO) works, yet a Royal Charter has now been approved which dictates that both the infrastructure surrounding, and process of establishing, a so-called "Recognition Panel" must begin regardless. Yet with IPSO not expected to seek recognition and Mrs Miller herself talking about the importance of a "self-regulatory approach", there is a danger that hard-earned taxpayers' money is going to be - and may already have been - wasted setting up a totally unnecessary piece of bureaucracy.
Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, has written to Mrs Miller asking the following questions:
Can you tell us:
- Has any taxpayers’ money yet been spent with regard to the establishment of the Recognition Panel and, if so, can you provide details of how much and on what?
- If not (and even if so), has further money been budgeted for the purpose of setting up the Recognition Panel? If so, can you provide: i) a figure for that budget; ii) a breakdown of what that budget comprises; and iii) an explanation of when you expect that cash to be spent.
- The estimate of the costs of establishing the Recognition Panel to the Public Appointments Commissioner.
Mr Isaby added:
"Far too often we see politicians and bureaucrats wasting hard-earned taxpayers’ cash, either by getting bad value for money on necessary expenditure or by spending it when they needn’t be doing so at all.
"Leaving aside our very serious opposition to government and politicians being involved in the regulation of newspapers, our fear in this case is that the DCMS could be about to waste taxpayers’ money setting up what may well already be an entirely redundant body. I hope that the Secretary of State can set our minds at rest and guarantee that she will not allow such unacceptable waste to occur."