Given the strong feelings generated by my earlier post the above question seems a good candidate for Monday's ConservativeHome poll. Grateful for advice on wording in the thread below and for suggestions of other questions...
Tory MEPs have this morning published their expenses for the last quarter of 2008.
Timothy Kirkhope MEP comments:
“Conservative MEPs are the first British delegation in the European Parliament to voluntarily publish details of our allowances and expenses. I hope that other parties will follow now that we have led the way. We now have in place a system that ensures greater openness and transparency, and goes significantly beyond the rules set down by the European Parliament."
The Tory delegation (with quite a bit of encouragement from David Cameron) is to be congratulated for leading the way on transparency.
Via this link you can inspect all MEPs' recent expenses and the names of their staffers (including family members employed).
Unlike all other retiring Tory MEPs Christopher Beazley has not published his expenses, however. Mr Beazley is on 'defection watch'. It is feared that this ardent Europhile might defect closer to June's European Elections.
More worryingly the UUP MEP Jim Nicholson hasn't declared either. He is now supposed to be a de facto member of the Tory delegation and he needs to be transparent too. A job for Owen Paterson?
Eighteen months ago Gordon Brown promised British jobs for British workers - a slogan we learnt had also been used by the BNP. Yesterday that phrase was used in anger against him as British workers saw 400 largely Italian employees of an Italian contractor recruited to build an extension to the Lindsay Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire. The Sun identifies fourteen wildcat strikes in support of action taken by Lindsay's British workers.
Billy Bones (a great name that could have come from the 1970s) - a pipefitter at the Lindsey refinery and union official - told the FT: “I would not be surprised if by Monday afternoon the whole construction industry nationwide is out. We’ve got our backs against the wall. This has been brewing for years. We have the skills to do the jobs but are not getting them.”
Yesterday in Davos, David Cameron was quick to criticise Gordon Brown for using the British workers phrase:
"There are legitimate questions to be asked of this company. If it is disqualifying British workers from applying for jobs, then that is illegal. But the Prime Minister should never have used that slogan. On the one hand he lectures everyone about globalisation and on the other he borrows this slogan from the BNP. He has been taking people for fools and has been found out."
Labour's double failure to (1) control immigration from outside the EU and (2) to reskill British workers during better times means that there are no easy solutions to this crisis. EU law protects the right of nationals from member states to work here. Over at CentreRight, Peter Whittle believes that we should strongly support the protestors. It's a temptation but one we should resist. Conservatives should not tolerate illegal strikes and, more strategically, we should argue for the long-term benefits of open markets even when they conflict with immediate British interests. That will often be a very tough argument to make but there will be many other times when UK workers - not least in the financial services sector - benefit from our free access to other markets.
The bigger message we need to get across - at a time when Barack Obama is making protectionist noises - is that a retreat from free trade is the surest way to turn today's recession into tomorrow's depression. Some Tory talk of buying locally is close to a form of economic isolationism.
Speaking in Davos later this afternoon the Conservative leader David Cameron will say that he will "stand up for business because it's businesses, not
governments or politicians, that create jobs, wealth and opportunity." He will continue:
"It's businesses that drive innovation and choice, and help families
achieve a higher standard of living for a lower cost."
But he will also call on businesses to work within a stronger moral framework:
"I think it’s time to update the free market orthodoxy that has dominated the past few decades. It’s time to assert a fundamental truth: that markets are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Markets are there to serve our society, not to suck the joy out of it or trample over its values. So we must shape capitalism to suit the needs of society; not shape society to suit the needs of capitalism. That is what I mean by responsible business. Business helping to create a society that is greener, safer, fairer - and where opportunity is more equal. Business helping to create a society that is more family-friendly, where responsibility and power are decentralised, and where we value and build up the institutions of the public realm and civic society. So if markets, and capitalism, and the activities of individual businesses conflict with our vision of the good society and a better life if damage is being done to our environment, or if family life is being undermined we must not sit there and take it, going along with the old orthodoxy that nothing should be allowed to impede the pursuit of profit. We must speak out."
He will call for the financial system to redirect its talents to the world's poorest citizens: "Our
financial system boasts people so bright they've created financial
instruments beyond even their own understanding. Now they need to use
those talents to help the poorest build assets. To go into our most deprived communities, giving them the tools to make the most of the market, to help them with banking and saving and owning."
Sorry for the lack of proper coverage but please read all about it in this pdf. The Commission was launched earlier today by William Hague and Theresa Villiers. We'll request a Platform piece from one of its members...
The Winter of Discontent and images of rubbish uncollected and unburied dead were used by the Thatcher governments to define the economic and social failure of the 1970s Labour Party.
ConservativeHome understands that Tory strategists are considering a bold attempt to find a 21st Century equivalent that would define the Labour Party for another generation.
Under consideration is the compilation of a Domesday Book analysis of Labour's legacy. It would be one of the first acts of an incoming Conservative government. New Cabinet ministers would be ordered to prepare an audit of their portfolios. Four to six weeks later a Domesday statement of the extent of public borrowing, the weakness of the nation's energy infrastructure, the weakness of family structure and so on would be published. As well as serving as a statement of challenges it would then be hung around the neck of the Labour Party.
Steve Hilton, David Cameron's Director of Strategy, is subject to a strong attack in the latest edition of Standpoint magazine. The attack contains at least two inaccuracies in the first paragraph. It overstates his salary (although it is still very considerable) and suggests that he campaigned for Michael Portillo (not true).
But I don't want to get into a line-by-line examination of the piece. Steve Hilton brings two big advantages to the Cameron project:
First, he guards and promotes its big idea - that the long-term health of our country depends upon a revitalisation of everything that lies between the individual and the state. Within the Cameron circle he defends and promotes the idea constantly. It's an idea I share. It's the big idea at the heart of Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice. David Willetts called it civic conservatism. Oliver Letwin called it the neighbourly society. Chris Patten talked of bigger citizens and a smaller state. It's the conservatism of Burkean small platoons. The Berger-Neuhaus vision of people-sized institutions. Helping individuals off welfare; giving local people control of policing; strengthening genuinely local schools; helping families to stick together; a bigger role for voluntary organisations. The state has become so big in Britain because society is weak. As it has got bigger society has become weaker in a vicious cycle. There'll be neither social justice nor a smaller state if we can't find ways of making society stronger. That's the Hilton vision and its's fundamentally conservative.
Second, he's more strategic than tactical. It's true he has constant brainwaves that flame brightly for a short period, that he wants implemented immediately and then often burn out. But many work and his overall disposition is to keep the Conservative Party committed to the long haul task of focusing on social renewal. David Cameron - like most party leaders - is surrounded by many tacticians. Hilton's big picture focus is rare and precious.
It's probably true that 'Early Cameron' relied too much on Steve Hilton. It's good that the Tory leader is now surrounded by a broader group of advisers, not least Andy Coulson who has led the evolution to a 'pub ready' operation. As 'Team Cameron' has become more balanced so, too, has the message broadened.
Steve has been in California for much of the last few months. He's in London for a week every month and will be here all through May for the European and local elections. His time abroad ends in July when he returns to Britain for good.
Politics in Scotland has been thrown into chaos over the last 48 hours.
Yesterday afternoon, the budget proposed by Alex Salmond's minority SNP administration was thrown out after it was defeated on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer. The Conservative MSPs voted with the SNP, whereas Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens opposed the budget.
"Labour argued the budget did too little for jobs,
the Liberal Democrats rejected it after their call for a 2p income tax
cut was dismissed, and Greens said the offer of a £22 million home
insulation scheme - upped at the last minute to a possible £33 million
- was not enough."
Annabel Goldie (pictured) has said that supporting the SNP budget was right after the Tories secured a variety of concessions from the Nationalists:
“The Scottish Conservatives fought hard to secure nearly a quarter of a billion pounds worth of concessions from the SNP Government to help in these difficult economic times. Through responsible negotiations Scottish Conservatives ensured that 150,000 businesses would have had their bills cut or abolished and town centres across Scotland would have received a massive £60 million cash boost. This was action to tackle Labour’s recession. Labour voted it down. And the real horror of what has happened is that public sector workers will face an uncertain future, council tax could go up by an average of £350, health budgets will be slashed by £650 million, small businesses will pay more tax, there will be fewer police on our streets and there will be less care money for our elderly.
“The Scottish Government has said it will re-present the Budget Bill. If it reflects the concessions we have already won, in these circumstances we will support it but we give no similar guarantees to any variant. The SNP should bring this Budget back to Parliament and face Labour down."
A further attempt at putting a budget through the Holyrood will begin
next week, but the First Minister is threatening that if MSPs refuse to
pass it at this second time of asking, he will trigger early elections
to the Scottish Parliament in a new attempt to seek a mandate.
Such machinations are naturally more likely to happen in a legislature elected by proportional representation where no party has an overall majority.
But in this case, were the Scottish Tories right to back the SNP? Was it that the party didn't want to be seen to be destabilising politics and potentially helping to cause an unnecessary election? Or did they believe that this was the best possible budget deal? And what are the likely repercussions for the Conservatives at the general election north of the border, or at early Scottish Parliament elections, should they be triggered?
It would be especially interesting to hear the thoughts of any readers in Scotland who have been following this saga.
The Standards and Privileges committee of the House of Commons has this morning published a new report into Derek Conway, the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, who lost the Tory whip last year over his use of Commons allowances to pay his son for work of which no evidence could be produced. He was first rebuked by the Standards committee one year ago this week.
With publication of this new report, Mr Conway, who now sits as an Independent and will stand down at the next election, has been told to pay back a further £3,757 and apologise to the Commons.
There has been considerable media coverage over the last week of comments made in December by Ken Clarke which attacked the party line on recognition of marriage in the tax system and suggested that a Cameron Government would be more pro-Europe than the Tory Party has been in opposition.
We covered the stories here and here once they had hit the national media, but noted that both Tim and I had attended the conference where Ken Clarke made those remarks (when he was still a backbencher). Our understanding was the the conference - hosted by the Centre for British Politics at the University of Nottingham - was off the record; indeed, the account which Tim published just after the event was explicitly agreed with Mr Clarke's office.
"My name's Rory Baxter and I'm
the journalist who attended the Nottingham seminar and picked up Ken's
comments. I wrote both exclusive pieces on Ken's views on Obama and
Europe (here's the original story, not the one the media ran:
http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=11168) and on Ken's
views on public service spending and marriage.
They have been picked up by virtually every media outlet under the
sun, especially the first piece I did where they attempted to suggest
Ken was calling Cameron a 'right wing nationalist'. I didn't get that
impression when I was there and I didn't write it that way. I can't
control how the media treat such stories but I do believe they were, as
they say, in the public interest, as we can see by the huge amount of
feedback they have generated.
Theresa May, who was appointed shadow secretary of state for work and pensions last week, has agreed to answer questions from ConservativeHome
readers. Leave your questions below or email them to us and we'll put a broad selection of
them to Theresa and then publish her responses.
Her brief covers a wide range of policy areas, with the DWP taking responsibility for, among other things, welfare reform and the whole range of unemployment and incapacity benefits, pensions reform, the labour market, employment programmes such as the New Deal, disability legislation, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive.
The comments thread is now closed and we will publish Theresa May's replies to a selection of your questions very soon.
This week's scandal surrounding four Labour members of the House of Lords - "cash for amendments", "peers for hire" or "Ermine-gate" as it is variously being branded - has prompted discussion among the commentariat as to whether it is time to reform the House of Lords (and for "reform" we should generally read "elect").
This morning, a leader in the FT suggests that a fully elected second chamber - as backed by MPs in 2007 - remains "the right way forward".
"Move to a fully elected chamber, with peers nominated for their expertise and paid a salary. Drop the titles; Lords and Ladies belong in Shakespeare, or on grouse moors. Fulfil a Labour promise first made in 1967: don't replace the last 92 hereditaries when they die. Get rid of the bishops (a move first attempted by the Commons in 1836) on the basis that the Church should have no formal role in the legislature."
The Conservatives have long made made noises - though often half-hearted - about a more democratic House of Lords. In 2007, David Cameron voted in favour of an 80%-elected second chamber, but, as Fraser Nelson points out in today's Spectator, it would by no means be a priority for a Cameron premiership:
"Being able to appoint Lords has its uses for him, too. There is the small matter of the as yet un-nobled Stanley Fink, the billionaire who has kindly agreed to be Tory Treasurer. And Mr Cameron is expected to follow Mr Brown’s lead in appointing what the Prime Minister memorably called a ‘government of all the talents’ or ‘goats’ — outsiders brought into his government. Being able to offer ermine is a powerful negotiating tool when seeking to hire outsiders on a Whitehall salary."
Whilst the House of Lords rules should be changed to make peers subject to the same kind of sanctions as MPs if they are found to have abused their position, I have long believed that electing the second chamber would be unwise.
Nick Herbert was appointed shadow secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs last week and today he has followed Eric Pickles's lead by taking the party's message to the people of Devon and Cornwall.
He's not there in the flesh, but he has written about Labour's failures on rural affairs for the Western Morning News, whose readers include voters in a large number of West Country marginals, many of which are currently held by the Lib Dems.
Here are just some of the ways in which he explains that rural communities are being hit especially hard by the recession:
In remote rural areas, the number of businesses per 10,000 people is almost three times the urban level: the Commission for Rural Communities has warned that lower consumer and business spending, together with difficult borrowing conditions, have led to job losses and business closures;
The marked downturn in the construction industry has led to a significant decline in the demand for wood;
Over a third of tourism businesses have reported a decline in profits;
House prices are significantly higher in the countryside than in urban areas, yet earnings are lower, so there are fewer first time buyers: although values have now fallen sharply, the unavailability of credit means there’s no silver lining of increased affordability;
Last year’s soaring fuel prices clobbered rural motorists who rely on their cars where the provision of public transport is poor;
Rural homes have seen the cost of heating oil double over the last two years;
Rural England has lost over a fifth of its entire post office network since the new millennium: nearly 1,400 rural branches have closed;
Well over 200 of the smallest schools have closed since 1997;
In this Government’s first two terms, 384 police stations closed in the shires, nearly five times the number in the metropolitan boroughs;
Rural pubs are closing at the alarming rate of two a day.
No killer blows from David Cameron today, but he certainly scored more highly than Brown. The Prime Minister's twin mantras about how the Tories would "do nothing" and it being a "world recession" are getting a little tedious week after week.
12.30 Sir Peter Tapsell asks about the value of gold today compared with when Brown started selling it as Chancellor. Brown says iut was right to "diversify our portfolio" and points out that he bought euros which are now worth more.
12.29 Andrew Selous (Con): Why has the pound fallen so sharply against the dollar and the euro? Brown cautions against the idea of targeting sterling.
12.21 Nigel Dodds of the DUP raises the "obnoxious" proposal of a £12,000 payment to relatives of victims on all sides in the Ulster conflict. Brown says the Government will consider the relevant report and decide what action to take in due course.
12.19 Graham Stuart (Con) is forced to withdraw a remark suggesting that the Prime tried to cover up MPs' expenses claims last week. He then asks if Brown believes that Labour is whiter than whiter over the "peers for hire" allegations. Brown cites Baroness Royall's article this morning calling for changes to the rules in the Lords.
He went on to predict a Conservative majority in the Commons of 100 after the next general election.
Whilst this outcome would be desirable, I am going to assert my prerogative as co-editor of ConservativeHome on this occasion to take issue with Tim's decision to make such a bold assertion.
Yes, the morning papers are now a miserable read for Gordon Brown on a daily basis. And yes, as The Sunday Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy noted yesterday, all major opinion pollsters are predicting a good working Conservative majority when the election comes.
However, not a single vote has yet been cast at that election - an election which I believe is still over a year away - and to predict such a sweeping Conservative victory at this stage reeks of complacency and has the potential to suggest that we are taking voters for granted.
What's more, if there is a general supposition that there will be a landslide on the scale Tim predicts - which would require a swing of 8.5% from the sitting MP to the Conservative candidate in the top 165 target seats - I would contend that we risk losing votes (and seats) that we otherwise might gain.
As the story has continued to run this week about the Sunday Times allegation that Labour peers have taken money in return for getting laws amended, David Cameron has tonight pledged to reform the system which operates in the Upper House to allow for punishments for those who break the rules.
In short, he wants to allow for members of the Lords who behave wrongly or break the code of conduct to be suspended or expelled.
He is setting up a committee to advise him on how this can be done, but is determined that procedures and indeed laws be changed in order to introduce sanctions for wrongdoing.
it's not possible to suspend a member of the House of Lords no matter
how badly he or she behaves, it's not possible to expel them from that
legislature and yet they're making the laws that all of us have to obey. This
is completely wrong, it needs to change and we will change it. We will
make sure that members of the House of Lords, if they behave wrongly,
can be suspended or expelled. Simple as that.
"There is a good code of conduct for members of the House
of Lords but if they breach it there aren't proper sanctions, there
aren't proper punishments. That's wrong, that needs to change.
why I'm setting up this committee to advise me, to look at the issues
of lobbying, consultancies, what is declared and what the procedures
are. I think it's very important that we absolutely make sure that our
Parliament is sorted out and everyone knows that both Houses of
Parliament, Commons and Lords, the people there, are working hard,
declaring their expenses and allowances properly, doing the things they
are meant to do and are open in all the declarations they make about
any outside interests or any other things that they might have.
about transparency, making sure everyone declares everything everybody
needs to know and it's making sure we have a proper process so bad
behaviour is rooted out and dealt with."
There is little I can add except to say amen to that. If public faith in our parliamentary institutions is to be properly restored, politicians need to be going about their business transparently and honestly - and they need to be seen to be doing so.
As such, it is only right that those in the House of Lords who behave improperly should be subject to sanctions similar to those applied to their counterparts in the Commons.
William Hague has been swift to respond to this afternoon's decision by an Information Tribunal that minutes of two Cabinet meetings in 2003 at which the invasion of Iraq was discussed must be released.
The shadow foreign secretary said:
“Rather than have items of evidence dragged into the public domain piece by piece the Government should set up a full-scale Privy Council inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war. “The sooner we can learn the lessons of the war the sooner we can apply them. It is imperative to begin an inquiry before memories have faded, emails have been deleted and documents have disappeared.”
Personally I am not convinced about the merits of an inquiry while British troops remain in Iraq, but it is not clear whether or not Mr Hague is unahppy about the publication of the Cabinet minutes.
For my part, I am extremely sceptical about the Cabinet minutes being published. Whilst my journalistic instinct is to be fascinated at the prospect of their publication a very long time before the thirty-year rule kicks in, has this ruling not the potential to damage the likelihood of serious Cabinet government being restored?
We know that Tony Blair resorted to government from the Downing Street sofas, where business often got conducted without civil servants to take minutes; but how can we expect ministers to take seriously the notion of Cabinet government if there is the possibility that minutes of their meetings could yet be published whilst they are still in office?
Below is a sight many of us didn't think we'd be seeing: Ken Clarke responding to a government statement from the Opposition Despatch Box this afternoon as shadow business secretary. Alan Duncan is clearly enjoying the performance given by his successor.
Mr Clarke described it a "consitutional outrage" that due to Lord Mandelson's being a member of the House of Lords it was their Lordships who heard the statement first and the Commons had to make do with having it re-read by Business and Enterprise Minister, Ian Pearson.
The new shadow business secretary suggested that the Government package announced today was "pretty small beer", wondering whether, for the first time, the Treasury had actually won an argument with a government department which wanted money and not produced a bail-out because it couldn't be afforded.
He accused the Government of having dithered on how to respond and mocked the new trade minister, Lord Davies, for the fact that one of his first decisions in government had been to set up a task force.
Altogether, a solid first outing for the big beast from Rushcliffe.
He said it six weeks ago but this is what Ken Clarke said about Tory policy on marriage just before Christmas:
"I got rid of the married couples allowance [when I was Chancellor]… I
really don't think it's anything to do with politicians whether you
[get married] and most of the younger people I know don't seem very
keen on it. My view of Conservatism is that it's not for us to tell you
[what to do through] the tax system – my wife didn't put up with me
because I was getting £150 by way of tax allowance. This is social
engineering for God's sake and when I joined the party we weren't in
favour of it."
"...But what I am in favour of is David
[Cameron] setting an agenda pointing out all the social problems, the
broken parts of cities, the level of family breakdown, poverty, social
disorder and crime. I'm glad to see us getting into all that but the
stuff I associate with the religious right in America, I think, is
having too much influence on where we are."
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is considering adopting a plan that would see a Conservative Government cap government IT contracts at £100 million - and wants to know what you think of the idea.
It is part of a set of proposals which has been drawn up by Dr Mark Thompson of the Judge Business School at Cambridge University over the last nine months and on which the party's treasury team and Implementation Unit (headed by Francis Maude) will now consult.
The key recommendations are:
The government could save at least £600 million per year if it adopted a more effective open IT procurement process. The open source savings would come not just from reduced licensing costs, but importantly by freeing government bodies from long-term, monopoly supply situations.
New government data standards should be introduced across government, enabling large scale IT projects to be split into small modular components.
This means that the UK government should never again need to sign an IT software contract worth over £100 million – so no more IT ‘white elephants’.
The thinking is that smaller IT projects means less risk of failure, and that costs would be cut by opening up the procurement system to more companies, thereby increasing competition for IT contracts.
Anything to put an end to the spiralling costs of exercises such as the NHS supercomputer, the CSA IT system and the probbation service computer system must surely be welcome.
Mr Osborne said:
"The Conservative Party is looking to the future. We have led the
debate on using open source software in government, and I'm delighted
that Dr Mark Thompson has come forward with these detailed
"These proposals aren't just about saving money - they're about
modernising government, making the public sector more innovative and
improving public services.
“Before we take these ideas forward, we're going to hold a consultation process - and as part of that process, I want to hear what ConservativeHome readers think about the proposals. After all, being open to new ideas is what open source is all about.”
That is how I would sum up the message which David Cameron delivered when asked about the thorny issue of immigration by Jeff Randall on Sky News last night.
The Tory leader has not exactly gone out of his way to raise the matter during his leadership, after the party courted criticism for making it too prominent an issue at the last general election.
However, he denied the suggestion that he had avoided discussing it and said the following:
“I think that immigration is too high, I think it needs to be
limited and I think the numbers need to come down... I don’t think in any way I’ve shied away from this
policy, but I wanted to make sure the Conservative Party would be
listened to and heard as a bunch of reasonable people making a
reasonable point. The problem in the past is whenever we’ve talked about this issue people questioned our motives – why are they doing that?”
“I think it was very important to make it clear that we believe in a multiracial Britain. We believe it’s a success. We think immigration has been good for Britain in the past. We think immigration will continue, but not any immigration, not all immigration, it needs to be controlled."
"Controlled Immigration" was of course the fifth of Michael Howard's five two-word phrases which he said summed up the major planks of Conservative policy in advance of the 2005 general election.
Dominic Grieve - now the party's Justice spokesman - has this afternoon defended the amendment put down by former Home Secretary Lord Waddington . The Waddington amendment - passed last year - states “for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred”. Gay rights groups are up in arms, however. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall accused the Conservatives of throwing "a bit of red meat for the Tory Right."
This was what Dominic Grieve said in the Commons earlier today:
"Mr Speaker, it wouldn’t be a New Labour justice Bill without some attempt to curtail freedom of speech. The balance between protecting society from incitement to homophobic hatred … and preserving legitimate public debate is a delicate one.
Agreement was reached on this particular question after prolonged debate in the other place last year. Words that incite violent hatred have no place in civilised society; temperate criticism should be permitted. I would remind the Secretary of State that he and his ministerial colleagues voted to accept the amendment that he now seeks to strike out.
That amendment came at the end of lengthy debate, in both houses, in which a variety of safeguards were put forward to try to achieve consensus in a difficult area. What can possibly have changed since we last debated, and settled, this matter? There is not a shred of evidence to support the view that the saving clause introduced by Lord Waddington will prevent the new offence from being prosecuted successfully in those cases where it is justified.
After all, if the Government were really concerned about protecting gay people, they wouldn’t be amending last year’s legislation, they’d be implementing it.
Again all talk, no action. The only conceivable motivation for revisiting the question now … is the cheapest kind of party political posturing. We will resist this amendment."
Further to my earlier report on George Osborne's plans to introduce financial incentives for civil servants to save money, the shadow Treasury team and Francis Maude have just launched plans to "stop the Whitehall spending supertanker". David Cameron was present at the launch but didn't speak. In addition to plans to introduce a fiduciary reponsibility for civil servants to spend money wisely Mr Osborne also promised "an independent “rapid response” team that will quickly identify specific improvements in efficiency where waste is suspected or seen. The team will be able to launch investigations on behalf of the Office of Financial Management and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and will publish the results of its investigations."
In his remarks Francis Maude called for a more mature view of risk within the civil service:
"At the working level the culture is thoroughly risk-averse. No one’s career is damaged by persisting with an inefficient status quo. But try something new that doesn’t work and it can be an instant black mark on the personnel file. The truth is that many innovations don’t succeed. But good organisations learn as much from the failures as from the successes. Of course innovation needs to be well thought through and the risks properly assessed. We need to move away from the blame culture where every failure is assumed to be a culpable failure. We need a culture where people are encouraged to try new things, to acknowledge if they haven’t worked and to learn the lessons from the attempt."