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Vote of thanks at the John Garrett Memorial Lecture

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John Garrett was the Labour MP for Norwich South from 1974-1983 and 1987-1997. He died in 2007. Each year a lecture is held in his memory in conjunction with the UEA School of Political, Social and International Studies. In this, the fifth lecture, the Rt.Hon Margaret Hodge MP and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee gave a speech entitled 'Holding Government to Account'.

 

The following vote of thanks was given by Clive Lewis Labour Party PPC, Norwich South, on its conclusion:

 

Margaret, like your chairing of the Public Accounts Committee - your speech tonight has been both a revealing and an amusing affair.

 

It's also been thoroughly informative.

 

As we heard earlier, these lectures, as John Garett would have wished, seek to expand our knowledge and understanding of political matters that matter, in the here and now.

 

Therefore I think we can all agree you don't get more topical than tonight's discussion and lecture on 'Holding Government to Account'.

 

As Margaret tonight explained - with public finances in such a dire state - the need to hold government to account for every penny of expenditure means her work and that of the Public Accounts Committee has never been as high profile. Or for that matter, as important.

 

Dealing with everything from HS2, BBC executive payoffs, welfare reform and defence procurement - its task is to hold government to account for every penny of our taxes that are spent.

 

But increasingly the scope of the committee, has quite rightly, extended ever more into the realm of the private sector.

 

Whether we agree with it or not the outsourcing of vast swathes of public services and utilities has widened the pool of organisations that must ultimately face the wrath of Margaret and the Committee.

 

For a few - like Google, Amazon and Starbucks - we heard tonight it may even mean a trip to the Tower of London. Now who here tonight wouldn't pay good money to see that?

 

But for me the highlight of tonight's talk were Margaret's comments on the issue of Tax Justice.

 

I think we know in our bones that a new political consensus is required if the culture of tax evasion and avoidance is to be challenged not just here but increasingly on a global scale.

 

I say tax evasion and avoidance. Some would say there's no difference between the two terms. Former Labour chancellor Denis Healy believed the difference between them was 'the thickness of a prison wall'.

 

Anyhow, as Margaret explained Tax Justice ensures a more level plying field for all. Quite rightly it has a bias to the poor, not by chance, but by design.

 

It is the sign of a healthy, moral, mixed economy that enables us to pay for the public services I think most people in this room would agree are essential to our future prosperity.

 

But it won't just happen - it requires determined political leadership

 

As Richard Murphy - the Norfolk tax justice campaigner often says: 'We need a courageous state with courageous politicians'.

 

Margaret, after listening to you here tonight  and listening to the work you and your committee do on a regular basis, political courage is not something you seem to be in short supply of.

 

Forwards then with the courageous state. Forwards with courageous politicians and committees and thank you for your time tonight.

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