Try training, Minister.

There are wise words and sensible recommendations to be found in the Better Government Initiative report on how to improve government.

The recommendations centre around reducing the volume of legislation passed by the House, requiring post implementation appraisal of how the new legislation or government programme is working, strengthening Parliamentary scrutiny and improving the reports to cabinet and Parliament on what is proposed and how much it might cost. All of these would be most welcome.

One of the dangers of more and more people coming to Parliament without having held posts outside in senior management in the private sector is that all too many Ministers have no relevant experience when it comes to tackling the policy issues and management problems of their department. There are proposals to bring in some training for Ministers. Watching how many of the current crop of Ministers do their jobs, it would be most welcome.

Few of them seem to understand how to motivate civil servants and quango staff. Few of them seem to manage the spending of money and the use of other resources in the way they should. Most seem to concentrate on press relations and trying to manage the reporting of unsatisfactory outcomes, instead of concentrating on creating more and better outcomes from the spending, the legislation and the other decisions they make.


  1. Richard Clarke
    January 9, 2008

    Few ministers have ever had a real job outside a student union, have never provided a service or delivered a good

    However, this does not matter, because in reality all they really need to do is read out press releases prepared by their officials.

    Nobody with any real talent would want to be a minister in any case, because all the power has gone to Brussels.

    If you are truly third-rate, however, you get a massive salary and driven around in a limo, and have people fawning over you (to your face at least) — all for being your department's spokes-person.

    Not a bad job if you can read.

  2. Brian Tomkinson
    January 9, 2008

    You could start by putting Brown's name at the top of the list for training along with the rest of his bunch of incompetents laughingly known as the cabinet! However, why should the overburdened taxpayer foot the bill to rectify their personal lack of managerial competence? Let them pay for their own training or do the honourable thing and resign.

  3. Tony Makara
    January 9, 2008

    John, this is very true indeed. I doubt if many ministers have a grounding in the finer points of macroeconomics. I support your call for training for ministers. Get ministers to go on courses in the city and learn about vital areas like the carry-trade or straight banking practice. All too often minsters have to lean too heavily on advisors because they do not have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter in hand. As you rightly say their is a failure in logistics and the best way to use auxiliary bodies.

  4. APL
    January 9, 2008

    JR: "The recommendations centre around reducing the volume of legislation passed by the House,.."

    Given that much if not the majority of leglislation that passes through Parliament originates from the European Union, and is passed by Statutory instrument.

    How will you 1. scrutinize an item of leglislation that may derive its legality from enabling legislation passed months or even years ago.

    2. We are obliged to implement such leglislation by treaty. How do you propose to reduce the leglislation if we are so obliged?

    JR: "Better Government Initiative report on how to improve government."

    I guess it is a little like asking a turkey if it would like to join you for Christmas dinner. But do any MPs consider that we might get better government if we had less government?

  5. mikestallard
    January 10, 2008

    APL is quite right.
    Daniel Hannan's blog yesterday showed how the Civil Servants are now going straight to Brussels for instruction, bypassing Westminster completely.
    The Identity Card exchange, in Prime Minister's Question Time was interesting too. That is another European project actually forwarded by Mr Blair when he was president. You can discuss it all you like. it is going to happen.

    Parliament, with its generous pension system and its decent pay which rises faster than inflation, is a pretty good career ladder for nice safe, obedient people. Little to do (You said you had seen the empty diary of a Minister), good company, job security – you get the lot: so long as you do not rock the boat.

    There are two clouds on the horizon:
    1. Already a few people can see this. More and more will see it as time goes on. The low turn out at voting time mirrors this.
    2. If the organisers are out of touch (and increasingly this is the case) the system will crash. Already we have seen problems with Northern Rock, foot and mouth and North Sea fishing. With things like Islamic terrorism, racial tensions in Paris and Trades Unions sharpening their weapons during a severe recession, "unpleasant decisions" will soon have to be taken.
    But by whom?

  6. Stuart Fairney
    January 10, 2008

    An interesting Litmus test ~ Say you owned a McDonalds franchise or some such, and you were looking to appoint a manager. Who in the current cabinet would you employ in the belief they could competently discharge the obligations of the post?

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