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Come up with something useful, Darling

“So you see, Alistair, it really was a toss-up between ditching you and ditching Steve Byers for ministerial incompetence. Fortunately for you, Steve lost the toss because the consequences of his failures have been more immediate, more serious and more high profile. But I want you to know I am hardly impressed with your achievements to date at the DWP.”

“Prime minister?”

“Well, just look at the state of private pension provision in this country, Alistair. It is a chaotic shambles and all you can do is come up with one hare-brained new scheme after another instead of addressing the labrynthine mess already in place.

“People are crying out for annuity reform, yet all you do is come up with yet another proposal for a new type of personal pension plan. Just how many do we need? Anyway, I can&#39t afford to junk two ministers in a year; so you will have to go to Transport.”

“Yes; Prime Minister.”

“So, what new initiative do you have in mind to start solving the unholy mess of the country&#39s public transport system?” “Well, I was thinking of a stakeholder season ticket scheme – make the cost of public transport so cheap that people will leave their cars at home and reduce road congestion, pollution, road accidents. It is a great new initiative.”

“Yes, Alistair, but will that do anything to improve safety and efficiency on the railways? Or to reduce passenger congestion? Or to improve public confidence in the government&#39s transport policy?” “Well, er, not initially, Prime Minister but it will put a brake on all these profiteering private train operators, make them think about using their resources more efficiently and improving the value for money they provide to their customers.”

“Yes but will such an initiative actually address the priority issues of the moment? Will it answer the concerns of the people actually using the system? Will it improve public perception that this is a competent and caring Government able to get to the heart of the nation&#39s problems and do something meaningful about them?” “Er, well, Prime Minister, I was…”

“Oh God, here we go again. Alistair, try to come up with something a bit more original and useful for once.”

And so it goes.

In response to the prospect of a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice to the FSA&#39s proposal for a defined-payment system, one of the FSA&#39s press officers (just how many press officers and spokespersons do they actually need?) is quoted as saying: “Of course, any regime we set up will take account of all relevant laws.”

If I may rephrase that to something rather more true to form: “Of course, any regime we decide unilaterally to impose on the industry will, somewhat inconveniently (bugger it), have to take account of all the relevant laws we may have totally overlooked when first concocting the framework for such a regime.

“Except, of course, the law of natural justice, which is a completely different concept to which nobody at Canary Wharf has ever subscribed and, in case anyone should be in any doubt, to which we have no intention of doing so in the foreseeable future.”

Am I right or am I right?

Julian Stevens

Partner,

WDS Independent Financial Advisers,

Kingswood,

Bristol

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