It demands nothing in return and won't help long-suffering stakeholders or audit consumers. No reversal of the Caparo judgment, no inquiry into its effects, no performance measurement or quality requirements for audit firms, no ombudsman and no effective regulation. The growing belief that government cares only about big business and little about the needs of ordinary people will be confirmed. So will the feeling that Labour dares do nothing to reduce the power of the Big Five. The great accounting give-away will go on. Government intends to renege on its manifesto commitments to 'independent regulation' for audit and insolvency and merely add new 'private' quangos to the excessive number of inadequate ones already in existence. The new regime will be funded by the business interests to be regulated. The belief in the altruistic generosity of business is touching but it's not going to finance rods for its own back. The DTI went through the motions of consultation on audit regulation but the details of its discussion with accountancy trade associations, remain secret. In insolvency, the pretence of consultation was even less. No one listened to the entrepreneurs ruined by insolvency abuse. New regulatory structures won't be empowered by statute. They'll owe no duty of care to anyone. There will be neither ombudsman nor compensation scheme. Government has even refused to give the Commons the opportunity to scrutinise or even discuss proposals. All this closet fixing is typical of the approach to accountancy. Government is colonised by big business. It finances and influences political parties, gives consultancies to ex-ministers and enmeshes civil servants who advise ministers. No wonder people lose faith in democratic processes and those who lose out at the hands of unaccountable power are condemned to hawk their grievances round vainly because no redress is offered. This is plutocracy not democracy. - Austin Mitchell is Labour MP for Great Grimsby.
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