On Monday we debated the “Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and learning Bill”. We were graced with a speech by the Secretary of State for Children himself, introducing this 225 page blockbuster.
It summed up all that is so wrong about the way our country is governed. The Minister inhabits a strange quango laden world. “Pupils, parents, schools, teachers” and “education” were words that rarely or never passed his lips. Instead we sat through a debate riddled with “Childrens trusts”, “Pupil Referral Units”, “The Office of Qualifications and Exams Regulation” ( a catchy one that, abbreviated to Ofqual which when spoken by some sounds like a branch of the KGB),”The Young People’s Learning Agency”, “The Chief Executive of Skills funding”, “The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency”, “learning on a young apprenticeship”,”the School Support Staff Negotiating body”, “sampling cohorts” nine regional “Learning and Skills Councils”, “behavioural partnerships”, “the Childrens Plan”, “work based programme led apprenticeships”, with lashings of “piloting” and co-ordinating” to get these quangos and programmes to stick together.
No wonder nothing works very well. No wonder there is such a huge gap between the governing and the governed. No wonder the money does not go very far. Just look at the huge number of these bodies that all need highly paid so called Chief Executives, PR departments to wave their own flags, campaigners to demand more public money, logo designers and slogan makers, glossy brochure authors and media script writers, training and visit programmes, grand dinners, foreign travel to see how overseas quangos claim more money and even a few people to do what Parliament has charged these bodies with doing.
If a Conservative suggests this a tad overdone, that maybe we could provide more young people with a good education if we spent less on this quangocracy, the Minister replies with menaces about “Tory cuts”. If Mr Brown talks to Mr Salmond, he hears from Scotland that even the modest efficiency gains Mr Brown knows are there for the taking are a major assault on the perfections of the public sector. Listening to his School Secretary reminded me just what a rambling and incoherent mess so much of the public sector now is, with schools, Colleges and others suffering under a huge weight of regional and national quangos, regulators and monitors. So Mr Brown, now you accept there are efficiency gains and sensible cuts to be made, have a look at this bizarre world of acronyms, initialese and obfuscations.