Accountability

In the two years since I was elected an MP, one key problem has become clear to me: the absence of accountability for decisions affecting local people.

What say do communities have over planning decisions such as the imposition of 58,000 new houses on West Sussex? What influence can local people have over an unelected regional assembly? To whom does the Primary Care Trust answer when it decides to downgrade our local hospitals?

I believe that a fundamental shift of power is needed to give local communities a voice, and to curb the power of unelected bodies and of Whitehall.

That's why I've supported the Sustainable Communities Bill, and why I am a member of "Direct Democracy" (http://www.direct-democracy.co.uk/), a movement calling for localist policies such as the election of commissioners to give the public a real say over how their area is policed.

I believe that empowering communities to hold someone responsible for the delivery of services will result in better decisions, but also that greater democratic legitimacy will help to re-build confidence in our political system.

Changes need to be made at Westminster, too. This week the Conservative Party's Democracy Taskforce has proposed giving Parliamentary committees more power to scrutinise the government of the day. Hot topic debates in Parliament on issues of urgent public concern could be initiated by public petitions.

There would be a reduction in party political slanging matches, with more serious examination of government policy in committees, and much tougher scrutiny of Government waste, with prior justification required for spending decisions. No deals could be made in Europe without full explanation in Parliament first.

In a famous episode of "Yes Minister", Sir Humphrey resists such radical ideas, arguing that British democracy consists of "a civilised, aristocratic government machine, tempered by occasional general elections." I think it's time to bin this attitude, and return power to the people.

Michelle Taylor