Government accountability

Recent events have turned the spotlight on Ministerial accountability, leading some to explore what responsibility if any unelected officials have for mistakes in government. The failure over some ten years to  send out the right reminders for breast cancer screening follows hard on the heels of a longer time period of failure to equip Windrush arrivals with proper papers as British citizens. We have seen rail franchises collapse, and other contractors of government get into financial trouble after bidding for government contracts.

Under our system Ministers take responsibility for anything government does wrongly or fails to do. This is based on ultimate policy authority resting with them, and the fact that they are the public voice and face of their departments. Officials are not normally allowed public voice and can usually expect Ministers to take the rap, in return for sharing with Ministers what is happening and seeking Ministerial approval for policies.

This traditional model has been subject to amendments in recent decades. The  idea behind the Next Steps Agencies and their Labour successors was to split policy from implementation. Executive Agencies to implement environmental controls or to build and maintain highways were established, with accountable officials as CEOs. They directly answer to Parliamentary Committees and are responsible for spending money, reporting to the PAC where necessary. The idea was to make the professionals and experts responsible for executing policy, and to distance Ministers from writing and letting contracts and from judging complex technical issues like railway safety features or highways design.

There was always in the traditional model a separate line of accountability and responsibility for proper spending through the Permanent Secretary as Accounting Officer to the PAC, in parallel to the Minister’s responsibility for budget choices and overall adequacy.

These latest debates do require further exploration of how much the Minister is to blame for problems that go back years, and for matters which have rested entirely or largely with officials. Ministers had always said the Windrush arrivals were British, and had said they wanted women up to 70 to have breast screening. The policy was the one Parliament wanted. The issue is why was it not seen through?

More difficult is the situation over Brexit customs policy. I read that some officials think we cannot be ready for 2019 or 2021 for exit with smooth operation of the borders. yet Ministers have asked the civil service to make sure we are ready, and Ministers and senior officials who have been asked by Parliamentary Committees have assured us they will be ready for any eventuality over the talks. This kind of noise off, and selective leaks of official  papers that Ministers do not agree with, is not part of the deal between Ministers and officials. If Ministers are to defend officials, they should expect officials to put their concerns to Ministers and then to stick to the agreed line when decisions are made.

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137 Comments

  1. Peter Wood
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Dr. Redwood, In your last 2 lines of your second para: “…for sharing with Ministers what is happening and seeking Ministerial approval for policies.” Is this a mistake in writing or are you telling us that civil servants now MAKE policy and just let Ministers know what it is and ask for a sign-off?

    If it the latter, then no wonder we are having Brexit troubles!

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Peter

      The current Customs and Trade fudge is just yet another example of weak leadership, with weak Remain Ministers supporting it.

      Afraid it looks like the time for 48 Conservative members to get their letters in, is fast approaching.

      Just like Cameron, afraid Mrs May it appears, does simply not believe that the UK should govern itself.
      Perhaps third time lucky for a Conservative leader that does.

    • Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Yes, I hope that WAS an mistake in how Dr Redwood explained it. Otherwise, that seems a very worrying state of our Government’s affairs!

    • forthurst
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Most politicians are good salesmen and salesmen rarely originate the products they sell although they can be overwhelmed with enthusiasm for others’ ideas which they adopt as their own.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 3:58 am | Permalink

      “civil servants now MAKE policy and just let Ministers know what it is and ask for a sign-off?”

      This is probably true in the main. Rudd certainly did not seem to have a clue what was going on at the coal face. Yet ministers are the only ones who have any interest at all in looking after the interests of tax payers and the voters. We are thus governed very wastefully indeed. No one really gives a damn about waste or quality public service. They are mainly interested in salary, job security for them, power, promotion and gold plated pensions.

  2. John Soper
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    The problem arises when totally unrealistic promises are made. You and your fellow Brexiteers told the British people that the EU would quickly give us a great deal because we, the UK, hold all the cards. That has been exposed as a nonsense. So now we have to build vast numbers of customs posts and inspection points – but we don’t have the time and we don’t even have the land. So please stop trying to pin the blame on Ministers or officials. We are in this mess because of your many false promises to the people of Britian

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      John Soper

      Perhaps one could look at this another way.

      Before we joined the EU we had in place all of the customs checks and inspection points you suggest, because we gave the EU control with open borders agreed, and fewer customs checks agreed it automatically lost control.
      Now we wish to re-establish control, then investment is needed to upgrade our systems, not a difficult task if the people involved know what is to be required of them.
      The problem is, nothing has yet been agreed with the EU and time is marching on, hence the delay.
      Afraid our Government has not yet grasped the nettle because too many here still want the EU to be involved in some way instead of simply acting in OUR best interests.
      The EU of course is being unco-operative because its see’s a chance to retain some control.

      The failure is the weakness of our lot to recognise a strong position and use it to our advantage..

    • David Cockburn
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      I don’t think you are right about this, John Soper. I really don’t see why we should build vast numbers of custom posts; we maybe need more capacity in Dover but elsewhere our outbound trade goes both to the EU and rest of world so we already do what is needed and only need to spend some money to enhance the capability. As for incoming traffic from the EU, what do we care. If they want to have a complicated border between North and South Ireland to protect their customs union, that’s their choice and their’s alone.

      • Andy
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. The so called ‘Irish border problem’ is no such thing. We can police our border as we see fit: the EU have to decide how to police theirs. Let them sort it out.

    • Richard1
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      Indeed although to be fair what was said was there is no reason why a free trade deal with the EU should be complicated & it would be in the EUs interest to agree one. I think the Leave side did acknowledge – although perhaps not clearly enough – that for political & idealogical reasons the EU may choose to take an aggressive and antagonistic approach, as is happening. Whilst you are right to say this was a cost of Brexit played down, it is also of course an argument for leaving. After all, if the EU takes irrational and idealogical postures with respect to Brexit, why would we wish to be tied into it in ever closer union with the risk it will behave similarly in future international relations?

    • JoolsB
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      We do hold all the cards although you wouldn’t know it from the pathetic way May & co. are dealing with it giving in to every demand made by the EU. It is the Eu who should be careful about upsetting us because they need our money and they need our trade seeing as they sell us much more than we sell them. As it is, they make their demands and May says okay so they make more demands. John and his party chose the wrong leader. We should just walk away and not give them one penny.

      • getahead
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        As I keep repeating, May is in obeisance to the elite big businesses. She does as she is told. And she is told to give us an exit which is no more than a pretend exit.
        Time is long overdue that we had a leaver PM.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Hindered by Remainers.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      “So now we have to build vast numbers of customs posts and inspection points”

      Who says that, and on what grounds?

      The day after we leave the EU and its Customs Union and its Single Market the goods coming into the UK from the EU will still be just as compliant with EU law as before, that will not change just because we are no longer in the EU.

      Apart from any goods in sealed containers merely passing through part of the EU en route to the UK, perhaps, they will have been produced in or imported into the EU in accordance with EU law so that they can be freely bought and sold within the EU Single Market; what we will get as our imports from the EU will still be part of those compliant goods in free circulation within the EU Single Market.

      So why should we decide that goods which will still be just as subject to EU law as now will suddenly need additional inspections as they come into our country just because we will no be longer subject to EU law?

      That makes no sense. What would make more sense would be for the EU to worry about the goods that they will be importing from us, not the other way round.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Just to copy and paste a comment stuck in moderation on an earlier thread:

      “So what do you think the EU will do when we arrange with Toyota for the trucks bringing in their parts from the EU to continue to whizz through the port of Dover unchecked, or to be absolutely precise with no more checks and delays at the border than there are now and have been for the past quarter century since the advent of the EU Single Market?

      Because that is what Greg Clark was fretting about, that unless the UK government enters into this ridiculous “customs partnership” with the EU then the same UK government might impose all kinds of new impediments and create new delays for those trucks.

      As Jacob Rees-Mogg pointed out yesterday it will be for the UK government to decide what formalities shall apply on goods coming into the UK from the EU, and it would be utterly perverse for the UK government to order the introduction of entirely unnecessary impediments which will damage the UK economy.

      So what do you think your friends in the EU would do in response to a sensible decision by the UK government not to hold up Toyota’s parts as they come in at Dover? Do you think they would “retaliate” by ordering unnecessary impediments to create unnecessary delays on their side? Is that what they are like, is that the kind of people and organisation you support?”

    • formula57
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      @ John Soper – I never heard it said that the UK would “hold all the cards” but the failures that we now witness arise in great part from not actually playing them and of course too from Quislings undermining the UK’s efforts.

    • Beecee
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      It is because we have never played the cards we have.

      The main problem is that Mr Robbins, with Mrs May’s approval, seems to be deciding our Brexit policy.

      I am not suggesting that digging ourselves out of EU membership is easy but our stance from the outset should have been – we are leaving using WTO rules, if the EU has a better offer then let us hear it?

      Instead our typical need to conciliate and compromise put us on the back foot from day one!

      So much for the wishes of the people and the contents of the Conservative Manifesto.

      Oh! If we implement a soft border in Ireland against the wishes etc. of the EU then so be it, it is their problem. The rest of the UK should not be blackmailed into a nonsense Customs solution because of it!

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        May’s brand of floppy leadership gets up my wick! I don’t trust her as far as I could throw her. She was a useless Home Secretary, and she’s even worse as PM.

        I heard Tory MPs saying at the time of her selection (coronation) what a great leader she would make. I now question their words and judgement, and thus, their suitability as our political representatives if this is the best they can come up with!

        If we take a look at the make-up of the cabinet, we’ll find it has an in-built pro-EU bias and May is the one who chooses her ‘team’ so what do we leavers expect?

        By contrast, a person who believes in the Brexit cause will always go the extra mile to get the deal we want and need!

        Tad

        • Lifelogic
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:09 am | Permalink

          Indeed May is dithering, lacking any leadership qualities, a huge robotic electoral liability, a high tax remainer and interventionist & a PC socialist at heart. She even retains P Hammond as chancellor who gives us the highest, most complex and the most absurd and unsustainable tax system for 40+ years.

          She thinks that more government, tax and regulation are the solutions when they are actually the main problem. She like to tell business what to do when she could not run a whelk stall.

          She even ruled out a points based (taking only the best and most needed) immigration system. Why would anyone sensible do that? What does she want a lottery? Or perhaps just the criminals and net financial liability ones?

      • Andy
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        The moral of this whole sad exercise is that we should not have engaged with Barnier in the first place. Article 50 (1) was quite clear: we had the right to leave following our own constitutional arrangements, which are what we say they are.

    • Grim Reaper
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Yes you should emigrate to the EU now and save yourself!

      • mancunius
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        Funny you you should say that. I’ve seen a reader’s comment in Die Welt by a German mother who says how glad she is her young professional daughter is now ‘safe in England’ and looking forward to a ‘hopeful future outside the EU’.

        • APL
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

          Mancunius: “how glad she is her young professional daughter is now ‘safe in England’ ”

          But the children of young women aren’t safe in England. And for the same reason they aren’t safe in Germany.

          Redwood? Zzzzzzz. To scared to address the issue.

        • margaret howard
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          mancunius:

          “I’ve seen a reader’s comment in Die Welt by a German mother who says how glad she is her young professional daughter is now ‘safe in England’ and looking forward to a ‘hopeful future outside the EU’”

          How very convenient. But always nice to see ones prejudices confirmed!

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Rubbish, we, the people, have been gifted with a majority of Conservative MPs who have decided democracy is dead.

      • Alison
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Not sure the Labour Party is covered in democratic glory at the moment.

        Tergiversation is the word that springs to my mind daily re the Labour Party.

        Thankfully there are some wonderful souls there – without whom, Mrs May would be in even more serious trouble. And Brexit too.

    • NickC
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      John Soper, As a “fellow Brexiteer” I can assure you that I have argued strongly since at least 2013 that the EU would not give us a great or even a fair deal. My view was that if you thought the EU would be fair or reasonable then you hadn’t been paying attention for the last 40 (now 46) years.

      Events have proved me prescient, but I take no comfort from that. I had probably more attacks from you europhiles than from eurosceptics. You were horrified that I could possibly be so “negative” about your dearly beloved EU.

    • Edward2
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      “Vast numbers of customs posts and inspection points”
      Why do we need those?
      The paperwork for modern day international trade is all done electronically on line.
      Quality certification and lists of what is carried is presented prior to the goods leaving.
      Companies importing or exporting are all pre approved.
      There are some random stop checks but your vision of modern world trade is decades out of date.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      If this were any other deal, it would soon be over as the cards are heavily stacked in our favour, and the lexicon contains sufficient words to make that clear to the likes of Barnier. It’s really like a game of poker, but the hand the UK holds is being played by novices who would really like to see the other side win anyway. That’s why it has taken so long, and is so convoluted, not that the UK isn’t in a strong position.

      As for the civil servants who consistently get it wrong, they know that failure in their line of work is often well rewarded, so they can always look forward to a gilded pension and a seat in the House of lords. There are of course notable exceptions, people who are worth their salt, but after two years of faffing and farting around, the useless ones still prevaricate and procrastinate.

      I just cannot understand what is so difficult about getting the right people in to do the job well, unless of course, there is some scheme to delay and frustrate the Brexit process, in which case, the May Government is taking a massive gamble that the people might not trust them ever again.

      Because of the lack of a suitable candidate at the last General Election, I lent the Tories my vote because they seemed to be the ones most likely to deliver on Brexit, but it now looks as though we still have the same lack-lustre shambles as before. I haven’t yet said I’ll never vote Tory again, but I am very, very close to it, and I suspect a lot of others feel the same way. They cannot it, seems even select the right personnel to get the job of leaving the EU done to our satisfaction, so here’s an entirely workable solution to the problem. Forget the civil servants, how about we just walk away with no deal. Even the serious threat of that would make those in Brussels sit up and take notice, and finally enter into the spirit of negotiations that should have prevailed from the start.!

      Tad Davison

      Cambridge

    • Hope
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Utter rot. Remainer May and her chosen remaining cabinet have done everything possible to drag this out and concede far more than any normal sane person. Nor would any decent person fail to act on their word on so many occasions as May has done. She thinks that we have not noticed her incremental capitulation that has embarrassed her and our country. Brexit or walk away. At the moment walking away is far better than what she has agree to.

      May’s dumb vindictive behaviour towards the police came back to haunt her and her party at the last election when there was an attrocity two weeks before voting. In the last few months murders, stabbings and shootings have soared, more than New York, he blame must rest with her through dumb changes in the law to prevent the police conducting stop and search. Like visible policing the results cannot be quantified but to prevent stop and search or create a climate that the police will no longer carry out stop and search has Caused the escalation in serious crime. May is a walking disaster where her poor judgement, poor decisIons,when she can make them, have come to haunt her. Windrush was another Mays scandal not Rudds. In line with the blog theme when will amay take responsibility for her serial failings and resign?

    • ChrisShalford
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      No, the problem has arisen because our government is not negotiating decisively for the Brexit we voted for. Incidentally, Shadow Minister Emily Thornberry said on this morning’s Today programme that Labour wanted the UK to remain in THE Customs Union whereas other shadow ministers and Jeremy Corbyn have been arguing for A customs union (whatever that means). Labour have been just as indecisive.

      • ChrisShalford
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Ed Miliband said the same about Labour’s Brexit policy today as Emily Thornberry said yesterday. Voters need a “clarification” from John McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn.

    • Zorro
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      Not so – we have always said that in the end that they would come back with a deal at 2359hrs – that is how it rolls with the EU. The end would have come quicker if we had left more decisively so they knew that they would have no control over us.

      zorro

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Why can’t we just use the same customs points as we do for imports from China, USA, India, Russia etc etc ?

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      John Soper

      Stop this nonsense: “Brexiteers told the British people that the EU would quickly give us a great deal because we, the UK, hold all the cards”….yes most probably if the Remainers had not stabbed the people in the back!

      Had we not had treacherous Brexit negotiators from the beginning, John Redwood would have been proven correct……..One employs one’s own negotiators to act in the best interests of its client, in this case, the people, not deliberately ignore the will of the people and immediately proceed to circumvent leaving the EU’s deplorable asinine apparatus at every given opportunity….and certainly not to join forces with the EU against the UK citizens; the greatest Remainer crime in my opinion!

      If you are looking for a scapegoat for this atrocious debacle, look no further then the treacherous Remainders/Remoaners that are nefariously acting against the country’s democracy and interests…to this day!

    • Alison
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      That we hold all the cards – that would be an excessive claim. However, we hold many cards, and, as far as I can tell, the UK negotiating team has made very little use of them.

    • Helen Smith
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Where your argument falls down is that Brexiteers are not in charge here, we have a Remainer PM, a remain HOC and a remain HOL trying to overturn the referendum result, egging on Barnier, meeting with him on the sly, coordinating their attacks. Btw, I never thought it would be easy as I never thought the EU would put pragmatism and the wellbeing of its people ahead of their political desires. However, if we did as Mr Dyson suggested, just walked away they would come running.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:16 am | Permalink

      Tosh! We are in this position because May and Hammond are totally useless remainers and are further restricted by all the remoaners in the Lords, Commons, the BBC and the civil service. Look at all the appalling, second rate, ex cabinet secretaries in the Lords!

      You can only negotiate a good deal if you have prepared for no deal. Which is a far better deal than the one May seems to be going for.

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Breathtaking incompetence from almost all of the state sector. How could officials have dealt with the Windrush people in such a way when a mere brief conversation with them shows that they surely should have had rights to stay in the UK and citizenship?

    How could Rudd have been so badly informed by her officials. Why, when the problems finally came to light, was almost nothing done even then.

    Circa 240 deaths due to the breast cancer screenings it seems. Yet this was fully brought to light about a year ago. So perhaps another 24 death even since it was brought to light and perhaps another 24 before they finally catch up. One assumes they just think this is a price worth paying (though not by them of course)! Even now there is just a help line staffed by people with an hours training it seems!

    We have the highest and most complex taxes for 40 years and yet still public services are dire and declining. The police have largely given up on most crime rarely even attending, the roads are hugely congested and repairs done very inefficiently, the NHS is killing thousands and keeping many in pain for years, education is generally poor, rubbish collection is now absurdly complex and unreliable, the court & legal system is hugely expensive, slow and incompetent.

    One reason for this is that almost no one is ever fired from the state sector for incompetence. A useless teacher (for example) can go on and on damaging countless children’s education for years! Then they get pensions that are about 10 times the value of the ones people have in the rather more efficient & productive private sector.

    Have any of the staff dealing with the Windrush system or the Breast Screening Programme been fired or reprimanded?

    • Excalibur
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Indeed, Lifelogic. What a litany of waste and incompetence. No shortage of staff for mugging the motorist though, as you so frequently point out.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Indeed shoplift and they do nothing but park for 1 min over the allotted time or put a tyre in an empty bus lane and it costs you £60. They can be efficient when they want to!

    • Man of Kent
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      No !
      A spokeswoman on breast screening on TV the other day said , ‘we have a no blame policy here , we want to learn lessons not sack people ‘
      Enough said !

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Yet doctors who may a mistake (as all will inevitably do in their careers) get struck off or even go to jail.

        • margaret
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          Nurses would be struck off for similar. Some have far more responsibility than Drs and as they are not made high profile professionals by the public , can be more easily blamed.

          Unfortunately the public will hear and read what they are told by the tellers. The tellers will tell what is most desirable to themselves and their careers.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Cases dating back to 1983, such as this:

      https://news.sky.com/story/windrush-scandal-victim-richard-black-dismisses-settled-status-offer-11349226

      or even earlier, cannot reasonably be laid at the door of Amber Rudd or Theresa May, nor for that matter at the door of some of the younger civil servants. And yet if you read that article you will find that Sky do allow the blame to attach to present day ministers rather than to a previous generation.

    • JimS
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      I understand from the BBC’s More Or Less that breast cancer screening possibly leads to more deaths than it saves as the ‘treatments’ can be more damaging to the screened.

      ‘Windrush’ is a ‘scandal’ that ‘suddenly’ appeared 40 years after the act that ’caused’ it. No-one knows how many are affected and no-one cares because its purpose was for BBC/Labour to win the London local elections and to remove Rudd and/or May. One out of three isn’t bad going.

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I do not know if the screening saves lives or not but since the government were spending a fortune on it one assumes it was deemed beneficial. If not they were clearly negligent in doing the screening and wasting the money, Either way they were very incompetent.

        I suspect this not beneficial agenda comes from the desire to down play the damage done and deaths caused or just to save money and reassure people.

    • Hope
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Not just Rudd, she was fronting May’s mistakes and failings. May changed the law in 2014 which disenfranchised them. May made the point in Parliament the difference between illegal and legal immigration, so what did she not understand when changing the law? Record numbers of immigration under her watch while lying to say immigration would be cut to tens of thousands as she has now repeated as PM. Osborn says no one was serious in private.

      She is highly educated therefore we must assume she is not telling the public truth about the real policy or is totally incompetent. A bit like Brexit strap lines she has made and all her red lines that has caved in on. All the project fear statements made by ministers, KitKat policy of civil servants, no action taken. Drip by drip remain tactics to change our minds over time. She won’t cry in her beer if the remainers force her to stay in the EU. But she will slap down any minister point out the benefits of Brexit which is Govt policy!

  4. Mark B
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    Stalin had a very particular way of dealing with those who failed to carry out their duties. One is not asking that we start doing the same but, if done senior Civil Serpants start losing their jobs then one might expect a little improvement.

    The outsourcing of responsibility is a disgrace. We outsource the running of Scotland, Wales and Ulster yet we maintain their departments. Why ? There is also a
    Minster for London despite there beinga Mayor, an Assembly, and Local Councils. How much more government do we need. But I suppose it has one good thing going for it, all those votes in the Commons the government can bank .

    There really needs to be a clear out.

    • Know-Dice
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      “Civil Serpants” – A typo I presume, but very close to the truth 🙂

      May be should be “Civil Serpents” though…

    • JoolsB
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Exactly – and why do we need 117 Scots, Welsh & NI MPs sitting at Westminster when most of their workload is done for them by the devolved Governments. If they weren’t allowed to meddle and interfere and vote on 100% of English only matters, they’d be sitting on their hands most of the time with nothing to do.

    • Grim Reaper
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      The Mayor of London is doing a fine job for those who have managed to stay alive and healthy thus far.

    • Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      ”How much more government do we need?” Perhaps a department solely for England?

      • Mark B
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Replace the HoL with a smaller but elected Senate for the UK.

        Turn the HoC into an English parliament minus the squatters.

        Less is more.

        • Peter Parsons
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          The last attempt to reform the House of Lords was voted down in 2012 by Conservative rebels voting against their own government including Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and… John Redwood.

    • Hope
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Outsourcing is the way gutless ministers do not have to accept responsibility of their job or failings.

  5. eeyore
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    From a civil servant’s viewpoint politicians are ignorant and dangerous amateurs whose main tasks are to secure departmental funding in Cabinet and take the bullet when things go wrong. At the top of every department an endless power struggle is fought out. Victory goes to the most determined.

    As ever, careful study of Yes Minister provides the constitutional key. “They think it’s a comedy. They don’t realise it’s a documentary” (Powell).

    • DaveM
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      But the Minister always wins……

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Indeed.

  6. Caterpillar
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    It does feel that there is a systemic breakdown of democracy occurring. Elected MPs ignore their manifestos, unelected civil servants and lords make up and (mis) implement their own.

  7. duncan
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    A purge without remorse is now needed. When unelected peoples stand determined to undermine and weaken democracy then there’s only one solution.

    I believe British democracy, our sovereignty, our press and its freedoms and our liberties are under attack by a political clique who resent our periodic interventions

    The aim of this clique is simple. It is to diminish the impact of democracy upon the political decision making process.

    The EU is a morally and democratically bankrupt political construct. Our own democracy is being nobbled by insiders.

    We look to the Tories to elect a new leader with a radical vision. We yearn to get rid of this rabble at the helm of our party. These people are not Tories, they are Common Purpose clones and liberal left zealots who appear to have infected all aspects of the body politic

    May must go
    Hammond must go

  8. Andy
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    But officials are unable to defend themselves.

    It is perfectly evident that a new customs arrangement will not be in place by the end of 2019. Or 2021. You may get something by 2025 – if you are lucky.

    Officials have explained this. Ministers have been told this. Ministers choose to disbelieve what they are told.

    So what do officials do?

    On this occasion officials should publish in full advice they have given to ministers – and we should then make sure the ministers involved are held fully to account when it goes predictably wrong. And by full accountability I mean prison – which is where many of the current mob of incompetents belong.

    • mancunius
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Senior civil servants have told relevant parliamentary committees that our borders will be ready by March 2019, whether Agreement or no, whether transition or no. This is on public parliamentary record.

      The rest is a leak of unauthenticated alleged submissions by unnamed officials.

  9. alan jutson
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the clarification JR, looks like more modification is going to be required.

    At the moment it seems like the tail is wagging the dog, because the dog has lost his bark and bite.
    Aware Ministers cannot be on top of absolutely everything, or can read every little bit of paper, e mail, or report that is copied to them, but the people who they choose to work for them to prioritise such matters should clearly be carefully chosen by those Ministers.

  10. JoolsB
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    What I have noticed is how pathetic Ministers are at taking the constant flak from Labour without pointing out the fact that some of these cocks-ups happened on their watch letting the public at large think it’s all the fault of those nasty uncaring Tories.

    May and this Government need to grow a backbone and start firing back at the ever hypocritical opportunists that are Labour. That would shut them up.

  11. Adam
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Those who are assigned responsibility should conform to quality standards, which include trustworthiness.

    As Ministers are accountable for their Department’s performance, they should have more freedom to hire & fire in pursuit of attainment. Transparency reveals & remedies those who are deviant.

    Investigating wrongs originating decades ago identifies blame of less recency, but if Departments were better-led & maintained from the outset, such wrongs would not have begun then or since.

  12. Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    If there is deliberate foot dragging by the civil service over Brexit then this needs to be addressed.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      Alas this is alas all cheered on by T May, Greg Clark, Ken Clark and P Hammond types.

  13. agricola
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Government accountability is flawed. It is said that it happens every five years. Yes, but only half true because MP candidates are appointed by political parties. The public have little say in the matter. At present you see it in the Momentum takeover of the Labour party. You then end up with a H o C that wishes to stay in the EU in direct conflict with the majority of the electorate who wish to leave. The result is the farcical path to Brexit taken through the minefield of those MPs who are determined to thwart it. Among whom I would include the PM and many malevolent civil servants.

    You can add to the block on democracy the H o L. Anyone writing a political satire would be hard pressed to create anything as farcical as the present H o L.

    The remit of the civil service should not extend beyond being told what to do, except when asked for an opinion by a minister.

    The true Brexiteers in the cabinet must find it very frustrating that the simple business of leaving the EU should be shrouded in manufactured complexity by those who do not wish us to leave. The question for Barnier and his team to answer is , do you wish to have a free trade deal with the UK in goods and services or do you wish to revert to WTO rules. We have the electronic means to conduct trade however you wish, and without physical barriers. Your choice Barnier.

    • agricola
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      This one is on your side, why the tardy moderation.

  14. Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Officials seem to be acting like a fifth column to subvert parliament – That needs to be stopped….
    Cameron promised a bonfire of quangos (Executive Agencies ) – we saw a few go that way, but there are far too many out there, where no responsibility for actions taken is pursued…

    It should be in the next tory manifesto to disband quangos and take on full responsibility for all functions.
    The EPA is a typical example of how a quango, given too much power can make themselves a nightmare for honest folk – Trump is trying to rein them in, and we need to do the same here…. I want a minister responsible for things that affect the country, so that at least I know who to praise. (:

  15. Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    On the subject of taking responsibility – I see a report published by David Willets, of Resolution Foundation, is suggesting applying additional taxes on pensioners, to heal some made up nonsense about ‘inter-generational divide’.

    I suppose this is one way to atract voters, but it is immoral to say the least.

    If this gets taken up, it will be almost the death of the tory party… It would show the tories are trying to emulate labour, and that is a grave mistake…. as well as nonfire of quangos, we need one for socialists that pose as tories….

  16. Ron Olden
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    It’s inconceivable that any Government Minister can know everything that’s going on in their Department, and neither is it any good Officials claiming that they’ve kept the Minister advised, simply by sending them Memos.

    I don’t, as a rule. have much sympathy with Amber Rudd, but how can she possibly be expected to remember the contents of every single one of thousands of documents placed before her, and which, on the face of them, didn’t appear to have very much significance at the time?

    If she had been involved in this target thing from the start, it would have been one thing. But as far as we know, this might have been a policy which she knew nothing about. And why would she know, if no-one told her?

    The next thing we’ll hear is that Jeremy Hunt is personally responsible for failing to send out these Breast Screening Letters.

    The taxpayer employs all these bureaucrats to do what they are paid to do. If they don’t do it, name them, and sack them.

    At the moment they are allowed to hide behind their ministers when it suits them, and to all intents and purposes do as they like.

    Ministers should be accountable for policy and/or and for systemic failures which they could reasonably have anticipated. Not for individual fiascos where the employees are wholly to blame.

  17. Epíkouros
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    By creating quangos the effect was to expand what was already de facto but somewhat better controlled by ministers a state within a state. I keeping harping on about how useless government is in doing things and quangos only exacerbate that condition. There are no incentives for civil servants and the public sector to do anything other than in their own interests. So it needs people in charge who are motivated to work for the public good and at the same time are very competent and even then it is an uphill slog as most of the time making the civil service and the public sector perform as it should is like flogging a dead horse. To be fair it is not so much the employees fault as the system that they are compelled to work within as it is not conducive to altering human behavior for the better. A system that cannot be changed whilst it is remains within the control of the state.

    As the size and scope of the state increases so does the size and quantity of its inherent flaws increasing even more the number of cock ups, the inefficiency, waste and the misuse of resources and taxpayers money. We have to have government but what we do not want is very much of it. Certainly not quangos run by so called experts. We need accountability and even with ministers in charge there is not always much of that but a lot more than present. Then of course even with ministers there is the problem of competency and character and even the Conservative party struggles to find enough of the right ones. The left of course find none at all.

  18. David D
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    What about some government accountability for bombing a sovereign state based on entirely false information? A war crime in other words. Will we see any accountability for that? Any resignations? No, of course not because politicians and bureaucrats only accept responsibility for the small things. Things that can be forgotten quickly by the gullible public.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:21 am | Permalink

      True. Or thinks they personally had nothing to do with like the potato famine!

  19. Sakara Gold
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The problem with the civil service is their sheer unaccountability. No civil servant is disciplined or dismissed for the endless train of cock-ups, costing taxpayers millions. Departmental power struggles as senior civil servants build empires are more important than ensuring the new Type 45 air defence destroyers actually work and are quiet enough to avoid Russian submarines, for example.

    Nobody in the civil service will be censured over the Windrush fiasco (which ultimately is the responsibility of Theresa May), or the mismanagement of the MoD, or the breast cancer issue, but if the Opposition can pin the blame on a government minister, watch out!

    The problem is, ministers need their Permenant Secretaries (that word “Permenant” says it all) to advise on the implementation of government policy. If they don’t like their Minister, or they disagree with policy its very easy for them to place booby traps in their department that are timed to go off later, once they have moved on. Most ambitious civil servants only stay in post for two or three years.

    The French have a much better system than ours. Their civil servants are all graduates of their École Nationale d’Administration. Ours come from second rate public schools and mostly failed to get past “A” levels. Its a recipe for incompetence.

  20. BOF
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Ministers should NOT be able to shift responsibility to officials when things go wrong.

    Officials SHOULD be fired for incompetence.

    Time servers should NOT be given gongs for simply doing their job.

  21. formula57
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Civil servant quislings should be sacked without pension rights. Only a few need to be so dealt with as the fuss would be tremendous but the reward would be universal and last for years.

  22. Ian wraggwill be civ
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    So last week a Custom Partnership was ruled out and today it’s ruled back in.
    Just when are you going to oust this miserable Prime Minister and Chancellor who are trying to reverse the Brexit result.
    There has to be a coupe very soon as we are destined for civil unrest.
    Just how much more are we expected to tolerate.

  23. Iain Gill
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Its not just at the top of the public sector with access to ministers to brief them where accountability is lacking, it is also in other parts of the structure where failure is often rewarded, and perverse incentives apply. Often the best people, who really know their stuff, are prevented from being put in from of ministers.

    The MOD is a classic example, with officers cycled every few years and not allowed to remain in one post long enough to become good at it, so the slack often taken up by senior NCO’s who often become the only real experts in their domain. Where complete and utter failure is often no barrier to career advancement which often relies more on social skills and friends further up the structure.

    Or take the fashions, where pseudo science peddled by left wing uni social science depts is rippled through whole state sectors, like education or road management, with no real hard science underlying it. Indeed a casual glance at the so called evidence relied upon to justify some policies by anyone with a genuine scientific training will expose the nonsense within. There does not seem to be any concerted attempt by the politicians to insist on proper high quality science, indeed often the reverse.

    There seems to have been no real reflection by the ruling elite on the ways big mistakes happen, the way the system encourages them, obvious stuff like the way the whole state sector decided to build high rise social housing blocks, there is a fascinating human factors, group think, and political fashions underlying set of issues to this. And the same sort of thing is going on now in different parts of public policy, with no real debate or critical review from anywhere in the political spectrum.

    A lot could be improved.

  24. Andy
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I like the Resolution Foundation’s suggestion of £10k for 25 year olds:

    They have acknowledged that the Baby Boomers have pillaged our country.

    We need to take back the assets the angry pensioners have stolen – and share them.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      This boomer has given his all to millennials and continues to do so. His own children still in full time education.

      I do not need the Resolution Foundation to tell me my responsibilities and I did not vote for Brexit lightly without care for the future.

      The dispersal of my money to other people’s millennial offspring is socialism.

      The best way to help millennials is to stop importing competition for their jobs and their housing – not some pathetic gesture (£10k goes nowhere these days.)

    • eeyore
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Money is work in a bottle. First do the work, Andy, then you can have the money.

    • Edward2
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      Like most lefties you subscribe to the concept of finite wealth.
      It’s a peculiar Marxist idea that there is only a certain amount of wealth and it needs sharing.
      The idea that each person can create new extra wealth seems not one you can understand Andy
      The improvement in living standards over the last few decades has been amazing.
      PS
      The assets older people own will be recycled to youngsters if you think about it.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes, things are hard for youngsters but then they were hard for us too. While saving for a mortgage we never went out socialising, I never had my hair done in the hairdressers, didn’t spend anything on new clothes, didn’t have a holiday, drove a wreck of an old car just to travel 60 miles each way to work, didn’t drink at home or out and just saved every penny we could. We both did all the overtime available too. Compare that with many of the young today. They drive high powered new cars, are always going on hen weekends, stag weekends, spend money on clothes, makeup, hair, nails, tattoos, gym membership and drinking and eating out. Then they have the neck to say they cannot afford to get on the housing ladder. Many think that while they are single they should be able to do it. I didn’t know anyone in our age bracket that could buy a house until they were either engaged, living together or married. If we are to give away this vast sum of money then it must be used to either buy a house or pay off their university debts. Not just wasted on having a good time. Still, if inheritance tax is paid at a lower rate then they won’t get as much when we all die. Can’t have it all ways.

    • margaret
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      I have paid NI at a higher rate for 48 years . Have you ?

    • Glenn Vaughan
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      The notion of giving any hard-earned money to you and your fellow “snowflakes” fills me with revulsion.

  25. Javelin
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    John, put it in front of a judge. Judges can only judge what is in front of them.

    We are seeing the issue in the US, where the “deep state” has basically created a soft coup. Only now the Mueller investigation has been put in front of a judge do we find the investigation is politically tainted and legally corrupt and is an attempt to grab unfettered power.

    Senior Civil servants need to be put in front of judges. Not a threat, but an action. If they are confident they have power but no responsibility the case won’t even get past the initial court hearing. If on the other hand they are weilding power with no responsibility then there will be a different outcome.

  26. Rien Huizer
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Simple choice. As Lee Kwan Yew once said during an election debate: ” what do you want: democracy or good government?” Politicians tend to be amateurs with little or no managerial experience and expertise but a strong capacity for making optimistic promises. Good managers tend to be much more realistic and aware of costs as well as benefits. Not to say that every manager is good and every politician is managerially incompetent.

    Setting implementation at arm’s length is not goos governance. Politicians should be responsible foor overseeing those public sector managers (who may well be negatively selected (the lemons problem) because there is a strong risk that they will display many of the well researched pathologies of entrenched managers of monopolies. Best would be to contract well defined bits of implementation to external magagers who ire their own staff, based on expected project profitability. That would of course rule out the use of civil servants with their peculiar work ethos and compensation.

    Interesting problem but much too hard for democracies to solve. LKY was right but the choice for democracy entails more than just choosing an administrative system.

    My guess is that the peculiar British instantiation of the phenomenon you highlight here, was cause by politicians who were looking for what the Americans call “fall guys”..

  27. HardyB
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Unelected officials do not have responsibility for mistakes in government- they are not the government

    Unelected officials are promoted up the ranks and appointed by government ministers?
    everybody is responsible but accountability stops with government ministers?

    I am old enough to remember the windrush people coming here so the question arises why people in government and in civil service, although maybe being decades younger than me, would not be aware of the special case here regarding these people- I suspect there is something wrong with the educational process?

  28. The Prangwizard
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    This government and party is accountable to the people in respect to the EU referendum. Mrs May continues with her efforts to frustrate and overturn the result. Can you remain loyal Mr Redwood? When will country come before party? Will it ever? Does anyone understand the level of anger?

  29. NickC
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    JR, You are right about the responsibility for the putative UK customs policy post-Brexit – the civil service has had nearly two years to prepare for the WTO trade deal with the EU, but the message the public receives is of indecision and unpreparedness.

    There is no excuse for the government failing to have such a policy. Having it does not preclude a future agreed trade deal, and will make such a deal more likely, and more beneficial to us.

    Since we already administer a trade and customs policy using the WTO deal with the rest of the world, it should not be difficult to merely duplicate the policy for use with the EU, which must itself comply with WTO rules.

    I look forward to the government making a statement accepting the responsibility, specifying the policy details, and indicating the start of contracts for the infrastructure.

  30. stred
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    The incompetence of the Home Office, MOD, DECC/Dept of Business and Energy, and Environment is almost beyond belief. We have civil servants using their position to push their own political beliefs, using EU and government policy wrongly to undermine the aims that the electorate thought they had voted for.

    How could the previous Home Secretary spend 10 years and not know or do anything about all the ridiculously unjust deportations, while picking up illegals and arranging free accommodation and allowances that attracted more? Did she not read the reports about US and Australian long term immigrants with families being deported though self supporting and with many supporters? In last weeks Spectator, Lionel Shriver described how her US husband was nearly sent home by a young female functionary in the dreaded Croydon office. Why did TM not think of going to these offices and find out what these (officials ed) were doing chucking out people that were a benefit while welcoming illegals who were a drain on the taxpayer? Did no memo pass her desk informing her about the deportation of citizens who were invited here a generation ago?

    Why do we have ministers appointed in the Business and Energy Dept who clearly have no knowledge or capability when it comes to understanding vital decisions about future electricity and gas supplies or engine and car manufacturing?

    Unless ministers know their subject and are willing to control civil servants, we will continue to have a series of blunders. May is incompetent when dealing with the overall direction of policy and cannot even follow her own stated aims. She focuses on detail and appoints the most manipulative civil servants and then allows them to lead her into unworkable proposals. She has surrounded herself with other ministers who are equally shifty and only a few token Brexiteers are there to fool the voters. Unless she is replaced, the ‘Conservative’ party will lose more supporters.

  31. Lancelot
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Slipshod incompetent errors in programming a computer by computer workers of the NHS managers or otherwise engaged by the managers of the NHS who, failed to supervise them in accordance with their own role and responsibility, may have caused the deaths of hundreds from cancer.
    The Rt Hon Mr Hunt Health Secretary gave a speech to Parliament and one of two top journalists commented on Skypapers about it that “Mr Hunt did very well in delivering the speech under the circumstances” Well, good, that’s tickety-boo, okay, fine.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      It was also discovered 12 month back but not sorted, so one assumes even more have had lives shortened since the discovery and inaction. They even think it will take another 9 months + to catch up. So even more put at risk. What do they care?

      Still lets blame the inanimate computer or the algorithm!

  32. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Well, JR, I read these two reports today and I think I really am getting to the end of my tether with the sheer idiocy of what is going on. But perhaps that is what senior civil servants always intended would happen, whoever succeeded David Cameron as Prime Minister they would get them totally and inextricably entangled in this kind of nonsense so that eventually they gave up and decided we should stay in the EU?

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/04/irish-border-backup-plan-suggests-checks-ports-airports-brexit

    “Brexit plan drawn up for border checks between NI and rest of UK”

    “Leaked paper reveals backup proposal to avoid hard land border with Ireland”

    I believe that is what Theresa May said she and no other British Prime Minister could ever accept, so why has she set civil servants to work on plans for it?

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/07/theresa-may-facing-renewed-turmoil-over-brexit-options

    “Theresa May is facing renewed cross-party pressure to accept membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) or risk defeat in the Commons.”

    How often does it have to be said that a) Norway is not in any customs union with the EU, and b) over five months ago the Irish government flatly rejected anything resembling the customs border between Norway and Sweden?

    “Peers vote on Tuesday night on a series of amendments as officials work to try to find a deal on May’s preferred option of a customs relationship with Europe that is acceptable to Brexiters and remainers in her cabinet, as well as MPs and EU negotiators.”

    Her “preferred option” being a complex, ill-conceived scheme devised by pro-EU civil servants which Boris Johnson has just correctly dismissed as “crazy” and which the EU has already rejected, just as it has also rejected the second option.

    • Know-Dice
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      And out of interest the border between Norway and Sweden and Finland is about 1,200 miles long.

      Compared to the NI / Eire border of some 200 miles – It’s the tail wagging the dog and our Prime Minister seems to enjoy that….

  33. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    This morning Labour’s Emily Thornberry told radio listeners, voters, across the UK that the EU, not their national UK Parliament of which she has the honour to be an elected member, should continue to control the UK’s national trade policy.

    Her statement is embedded here, about 5 minutes in:

    https://order-order.com/2018/05/08/thornberry-labour-want-to-remain-in-the-customs-union/

    “What we want to do, is we want to remain in the customs union. We don’t want any faffing around with any of the nonsense that the government is coming up with in relation to alternatives to the customs union. We want to remain in the customs union.”

    Just to remove any doubt about the implications of this:

    http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=493

    “The European Union created a Common Commercial Policy to govern its trade relations with non-EU countries. The creation of a common commercial policy followed as a logical consequence of the formation of a customs union among its Member States. The European Union’s trade policy therefore establishes common rules including, among others, a common customs tariff, a common import and export regime and the undertaking of uniform trade liberalization measures as well as trade defence instruments.

    The Common Commercial Policy is explicitly placed under the exclusive competence of the Union (Article 3 of the Treaty of Lisbon). This confirms existing case-law of the European Court of Justice and means that the Union alone is able to legislate and conclude international agreements in this field.”

    “THE CREATION OF A COMMON COMMERCIAL POLICY FOLLOWED AS A LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE OF THE FORMATION OF A CUSTOMS UNION AMONG ITS MEMBER STATES.”

    And:

    “THE COMMON COMMERCIAL POLICY IS EXPLICITLY PLACED UNDER THE EXCLUSIVE COMPETENCE OF THE UNION”

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I’ve just watched the BBC’s Daily Politics programme and it was explained that this question of customs is all rather obscure and “techy”, so you ordinary people should not expect to understand it and it’s probably better if you don’t even try, and anyway really it’s just a proxy for more important issues. Well, to be sure there are more important issues than who controls the UK’s trade policy, the UK or the EU, but nevertheless it is quite important in its own right and not just as some emblematic issue. Oh, and No 10 has now explained to the reporter Elizabeth Glinka that under the Prime Minister’s preferred scheme we would indeed collect the EU’s customs dues on behalf of the EU but we would certainly not hand that money straight over to the EU, as some are falsely claiming, instead it would all go to the UK Treasury and then only be handed over later, maybe as one lump sum at the end of the year … This is the kind of insulting rubbish we get from the BBC for our license fee, but then this constant deceit about the EEC/EC/EU/USE project has been going on for nearly sixty years now.

      • Helen Smith
        Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        I know, rolls eyes, we need to shout it out, loud and clear, money collected from UK citizens under the Common External Tariff goes to Brussels, not to the Treasury, it buys Juncker more Chablis, not more nurses for the NHS.

        • Helen Smith
          Posted May 8, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

          I should have added, they keep telling Brexit supporters we are losing the argument, Remain lost the argument on June 23rd 2016, it’s done, finished, they might be able to steal Brexit from us, but it won’t be because they won the argument, it will be because they misused the power they have, and my word, won’t there be trouble if that happens.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:39 am | Permalink

            Indeed.

  34. a-tracy
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    This war Willets is starting to wage on Boomers because of ‘intergenerational unfairness’ really!! REALLY!!!

    Many people’s first jobs were Youth Opportunities Program paying £23.50 per week, or Apprenticeships that were paying around £35 but meant heavy college courses and learning on evenings and weekends. Most boomers I know left school at 16 after CSE/GCE’s, not many went on to the compulsory two years higher education.

    We often had to contribute to our parents household rather than continue to be a drain, or get lodgings renting bedrooms.

    Further education was predominantly funded by us from net wages to obtain professional qualifications or the Open University. Very few went to University and got grants (very few)

    Parents rarely had the means to help you onto the housing ladder, we had to do without holidays, we didn’t have phone contracts and internet, no netflix and satellite costs, today’s kids should DO WITHOUT them if they can’t afford them, although I doubt many could do without their phones now!

    We drove bangers or walked everywhere. Paid astronomic interest rates on our mortgages, got shafted by the endowment scandal, now have p poor private pensions and people like Willets who feel guilty for their guaranteed state guaranteed final salary pension and Lords salary want to tar us all with his personal guilt trip. Get out, get to Stoke, Manchester, and Newcastle and see some real-life problems Willet. The real scandals are the emphasis from our governing class on the South instead of sorting out transport connections, fair job sharing like Media City (thank goodness coming to the North) the Guardian should come back to Manchester too.

    Big companies will have to eventually when they realise London centric development, transport development, and brain drain is overwhelming the City and kids just can’t afford to live there and get the lifestyle they want. They could if they moved to Stoke, they can still buy for under £100,000 and Newcastle and areas of Manchester!

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      A-Tracy Add to that list Scotland. Property here starts at £35000 for a two bedroom flat. There is work if you care to look for it.

  35. forthurst
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Telling ministers that it would take five years to implement post-Brexit systems is either untrue or is a testament to the incompetence of civil servants to do what they are paid for. In point of fact they should already have prepared Feasibility Studies for the potential outcomes of the negotiations including not leaving the EU (Customs Union (partnership), Single Market).

    Civil Servants have never understood how to develop computer systems which is why they frequently make a hash of it, imagining that throwing a large number of uncalibrated bodies at project will achieve anything other than excessive cost.

    The response of Ministers when given the five year figure should be to demand to see the Critical Path Analysis which verifies this claim.

  36. Freeborn John
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    It is crunch time on brexit. If Boris Johnson resigns it is critical that he does do jointly with as many other ministers as possible and that it is followed by 48+ letters to trigger a leadership election. I don’t believe the conservative membership will elect another Remoaner leader wedded to the status quo like May.

    If May stays it has to be on condition that she be prepared to treat leaving the customs union as a motion of confidence that that no back-door membership of the customs union or single market be tolerated. If she cannot deliver that she is useless and no good would be done by retaining her any longer.

    • rose
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      The Conservative membership weren’t going to elect a remoaner last time. That is why they were disenfranchised by Rachel Sylvester.

  37. Lifelogic
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Nigel Lawson just now said “it is sad to have a Business Secretary who is economically illiterate”. Even more sad though to have one as Chancellor and PM surely.

    What is needed is for May to show leadership he says. Not much chance of that at all given her pathetic dithering so far.

    • Jonp
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic..I do hope that messrs Lords Lawson and Lamont stay around long enough to see the fruits of their work..both were responsible too in a large part in pointing us to leave..it must be very comforting for them to see the mess the country is in..when this wèek the government is still trying to put together a suggestion for the future trading agreement that the EU side have already ruled out as being unacceptable..in fact everything we put forward now will be unacceptable to them..the 29th March 2019 is fast approaching

  38. Edward2
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m not prone to believing conspiracy theories but lately I do wonder if Civil Servants who may be completely opposed to Government policies such a the introduction of Universal Credit, a different immigration policy and especially leaving the EU, are quietly making a mess of these projects so Ministers end up looking poor.

    • Andy
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Possibly. However a far more likely is that the ministers involved are just poor. Michael Gove is okay but you have to admit most of the Brexiteers in Cabinet come across as being incompetent. Perhaps there is no conspiracy – perhaps they just are incompetent?

      • Edward2
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Or the civil servants are incompetent.

      • rose
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        The Brexiteers are not incompetent, they are just marginalised, in a Cabinet which is overwhelmingly Remainiac.

  39. margaret
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    There are many problems associated with hierarchy and responsibility , not least the knowledge available to take that responsibility. I for instance do the same job as a Doctor and I am fully accountable. My pay is significantly less than a doctor and as I have been learning in all sorts of settings since 1968 I have the knowledge to either do or seek help. The ministers I am not sure have sufficient knowledge of their subject as they are moved around or sacked every few years. How can they be accountable if they do not know what is really going on.

    As far as wind rush and the breast screening issues are concerned , all should be accountable down the line . It is too easy to pass the buck or book. Communication is the important issue for reparation of potential future problems. Goals and procedures set out in succinct points and followed up at regular intervals to ensure things are carried out in an orderly way is management speak .It is a tick box procedure and doesn’t require any knowledge above the people who do know.

    I feel wool is being pulled over their eyes and details passed on or not wrongly.

  40. MickN
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    O/T I see that pro EU rag reckons you are running scared of snowflakes now ! I had to laugh.

  41. Blake
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    What was promised us by the brexiteer politicians before the referendum has largely come to naught..remember IDSou”do you seriously think the Bavarian car workets are going to stand by and see their industry and jobs etcetc”..or M Gove about the Frenxh farmers and wine growers pressurising their goverment..well it hasn’t come to pass so no point in blaming the civil servants who are left now to try and pick up the pieces..Right at this time now we have no effective PM and no effective government..we should really be supporting the unelected officials who have stepped into the void to try and keep things going..and again today..another example of massive disloyalty to the government today from Boris..thumbing his nose at the PM..well dear old Boris will get his reward shortly..i have no doubt..one way or the other..so watch out for sparks

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      See all the responses to Andy above.

      I blame Remainers entirely for our predicament. They refused to accept the referendum result after promising us that they would.

  42. lojolondon
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Dear John, I think your nature is far too trusting. I thought it was quite clear that Labour made delivery the responsibility of civil servants in order to allow ministers to issue directives without supplying resources and then to point fingers while avoiding blame.

  43. Norman
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Mistakes ARE made by any corporate institution, and when it is realized, Civil Servants will, by tradition, always try to avoid ’embarrassing the Minister’. Sometimes, things are ‘managed’, in the hope the issue will go away over time. The other strategy is to come clean, and take the flack full-on. One wonders if the outcome of the one dictated the strategy of the other in this recent double act. The stuff of nightmares for senior Civil Servants, let alone ministers!
    Granted, we all have to be accountable. But a modicum of understanding is also called for from the rest of us, (except those who can say they never made a mistake). When mistakes occur because of a fundamentally bad culture, that perhaps is a different matter.

  44. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Theresa May needs to be very careful about this sort of thing, because it may be seen that she is the liar rather than the member of her staff who spoke to Sky:

    https://news.sky.com/story/boris-johnson-pressures-pm-to-abandon-crazy-customs-partnership-plan-11363659

    “Theresa May has reminded Boris Johnson that he previously signed up to a proposed customs partnership with the EU, after he called the plan “crazy”.”

    She and her advisers decided to restrict discussion to two options, unnecessarily in my view, and the Cabinet certainly agreed that she could outline that choice in her Mansion House speech on March 2nd:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-on-our-future-economic-partnership-with-the-european-union

    “So we have thought seriously about how our commitment to a frictionless border can best be delivered. And last year, we set out two potential options for our customs arrangement.

    Option one is a customs partnership between the UK and the EU …

    Option two would be a highly streamlined customs arrangement … ”

    Boris Johnson agreeing that she could talk about what she saw as her two options did not mean that he was signing up to either one of them. To suggest that would be rather like saying that if you had agreed with David Cameron that we should have a referendum on whether we should stay in the EU then you had signed up to support his side.

    The fact is that the choice between the two alternative options was put before the cabinet sub-committee but the vote went against the Prime Minister, so in true EU style she wants a repeat vote to get the result she wants.

    She needs to shake off that evil genius perched on her shoulder.

  45. margaret howard
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    So who is responsible for the potholes which have reduced this country to 3rd world status? Will anybody get the sack or be made to pay my car repair bill?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      Oh no one in government gives a damn about pot holes. New bus lanes, refuse fines, council tax increases and parking restrictions & box junction fines are the cash cows to keep paying their gold plated salaries & pensions!

  46. mick
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/05/08/labours-brexit-policy-plunged-chaos-emily-thornberry-says-uk/#comments
    What with this and the HOL trying to thwart Brexit I think Mrs May should go back to the country with a GE so all these turn coat mps who keep saying they respect the referendum result can be kicked out of parliament and replaced with true believers in OUR great country and not there beloved Europe, it is our right to be respected, we are the boss and not the 650 mps or the HOL

  47. Andy
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    On another matter.

    It is time to sack Boris Johnson for insubordination. Discuss.

    (It is well beyond time to sack him for incompetence – the worst foreign secretary we have had since the war).

    • Richard1
      Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      It is rather odd that the cabinet are having their debate in public through the media, but Greg Clark having proposed the convoluted and un brexitish customs partnership we can hardly blame Boris for putting the alternative solution.

      It’s too early to assess Boris Johnson. If Brexit is viewed as a success in 5-10 years, as I suspect it will be, he will be seen as a great transformational political figure. The worst foreign secretary since the war must surely be jack straw who was in office and remained during the disasterous decision to invade Iraq.

    • rose
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Surely it is Greg Clark who should be sacked: he is the one who is out of line with Government policy. Boris only ever articulates Government policy – which , naturally, the MSM don’t like.

  48. a-tracy
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got no time for the BHS ex-owners or companies that get dragged before Parliamentary Committees to answer for misdemeanors BUT why should the public sector Leaders get away with not being answerable and interviewed on the tv in front of committees?

    Which areas of the Country didn’t screen for Breast cancer, my area has been superb and efficient and when checking everyone I know has been called for a mammogram?

  49. fedupsoutherner
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Arelen Foster would tell the EU what she wants and make no bones about it. Why can’t May do the same? All this fussing and farting around is really pis***ng me off. Never have we had such a bunch of hand wringers in government as now. I remember my first ever vote for a government was for Thatcher and since then I haven’t been impressed by anyone.

  50. fedupsoutherner
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one that is flabbergasted that there are over 55m different types of rail tickets???? Thought maybe 20 but 55m? Who on earth thinks these things up? No wonder I don’t travel by rail.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      Indeed it can take as long to find the best ticket as it does to make the journey!

  51. Iranexit
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Boris should explain why he tried to influence an American President in utterly betraying a long standing promise to the American electorate, a promise which was a main promise over a two year campaign. Boris should be sacked. His view is immaterial. The American voter voted to LEAVE the Iran agreement. Iranexit means Iranexit. If Boris is not in favour of democracy then he should emigrate into the EU…or Iran.

  52. duncan
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    All democrats in the Tory party have a moral duty to depose this leader who masquerades as a conservative.

    We want a true tory in charge and a Tory who puts the UK’s sovereignty, independence and democracy first

    May, Hammond and his pro-EU officials are a existential threat to our nation

  53. mancunius
    Posted May 8, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    When a PM repeatedly, consistently, unvaryingly, acts contrary to all her solemn public undertakings, it seems fair to assume that she is being deliberately duplicitous so as to disarm opposition, and has privately decided to thwart the democratic wish of the people.

    What the rebel Lords are doing in public, she is doing in secret.

    It seems the only obvious conclusion to draw.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      That is my conclusion too.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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