David Blackburn

Sir Humphrey always has the last word

Sir Humphrey always has the last word
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The Great Repeal Act seems to have gone the way of all flesh. Perhaps the task was deemed too cumbrous. Or perhaps the Civil Service replaced their original contrivances with a bill so convoluted that the Repeal Act itself would have to be repealed.

As Alan Clark wrote:

‘Give a civil servant a good case and he’ll wreck it with clichés, bad punctuation, double negatives and convoluted apology’.

I mention the civil service because the government plan to ‘cure Labour’s Health and Safety neurosis’. Lovely turns of phrase from David Cameron in interview with the Mail: concern for safety and welfare has invaded the private sphere and it will be undone.

This latest initiative is a constituent of the narrative of ‘personal freedom’. Pupils will be able to leave the classroom. Bonfire night will once more be about combustion, and ambulances will be able to attend emergencies.

That vision resembles a functioning and sane society. But the civil service is an impediment. The reams of legislation that have been added to the statute book, which introduced Britain to that apogee of advancement the Health Safety Executive and their fellow travellers the Regional Diversity Officers, will have to be repealed. Legislation cannot be done away with like a set of old curtains. Processes have to be observed and considerations made – one might say the plans will undergo a risk assessment. And where those go, stagnation, inactivity and failure often follow.