Many of you will have seen Labour’s launch of the GPC Files, an investigation I have been carrying out into the use of taxpayer funded government payment cards. Since the Tories came to power, I found that spending on GPCs by fourteen major Whitehall departments had increased by 71%, much of it on wasteful or excessive purchases that seem especially hard to justify during a cost-of-living crisis.
But almost as shocking as how some of the money was spent was the lack of transparency around it. For example, my Parliamentary Questions revealed that thousands of pounds worth of English sparkling wine had been labelled as ‘computer equipment’ in Foreign Office accounts, and that millions of pounds of Ministry of Defence spending had not been reported at all.
Transparency in government is important, and there were some departments – like the Home Office – where I had to ask very few questions about their purchases because all the details were normally published up front. But in most areas, transparency is not the norm, and that’s why it’s important for MPs to use their power to ask questions to reveal the truth, and make the government do better.