Diary: Civil service goes forward to a jargon-free future


Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of the most heartening stories of the past few days was that Alan Duncan, minister in the Department of International Development, had ordered his civil servants to stop using ear-torturing jargon. No more "going forward", this self-described "grammar fascist" warned. His department would not "showcase" or "mainstream" anything, nor would their policies "impact" anyone, his memo added, because "clear language conveys clear thought".

It was, therefore, with anticipatory pleasure that I turned to the written answer to a parliamentary question from Mr Duncan in yesterday's Hansard, expecting to find a masterclass in clarity and concision.

But what I found was disappointing. Asked how his department sets about buying the kit it needs, Mr Duncan replied: "Dfid is committed to the Coalition Government procurement reform objectives being led by the government procurement service. The department will use the central contracts mentioned in the reform objectives for the nine common procurement categories.

"The department is also making good progress in implementing new Coalition Government procurement policy objectives..."

Class war! Government turns gamekeeper

The buzzard is a native bird of prey – meaning that it kills and eats other birds. That seems to me to be a private matter between buzzard and prey, but this year the Government has spent £24,000 on studying how to discourage the buzzard from feasting on young pheasants, and has budgeted another £125,000 for more studies.

This is because gamekeepers do not want young pheasants eaten: they want them to grow to maturity and be shot out of the sky by sportsmen in tweed. The Labour MP John Mann, who obtained the figures, thinks this examination of the dietary habits of buzzards is wasted money. "It's class war at our expense," he told me.

An MP with no future as a comedian

The Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris is a purveyor of jokes of variable quality. He put this out on Twitter yesterday – "Next door R fickle. They looked blankly @ me when I asked if I cld have a tattoo, but now they R moaning about all the bagpipers in the garden."

Queen clocks up a fitting tribute

The tower at the north end of Parliament is often called Big Ben by the uninitiated – though, as any pedant knows, Big Ben is actually the 13.5 tonne bell behind the clock.

The tower is officially known as the Clock Tower but yesterday it was announced that, after an energetic campaign by loyal MPs, it will be renamed Elizabeth Tower, to mark the Diamond Jubilee. It is, said David Cameron, "a fitting tribute to the Queen and the service she has given".

National hero may be honoured at last

Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister killed by an assassin, may at last be on the way to having a commemorative plaque in the House of Commons.

At present, nothing marks the spot where he died. The only plaque to honour this man, an outstanding opponent of the slave trade, is near his home in Ealing. The Tory MP Henry Bellingham, a distant relative of John Bellingham, the demented businessman who shot Perceval, is among those who have called for this omission to be put right.

However, there are a couple of complications. The murder took place in St Stephen's Hall, which is now a thoroughfare leading to both the Commons and the Lords.

This means that a plaque can be erected only if the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, the Commons Administration Committee and the Administration and Works Committee of the House of Lords all agree. Also the hall was damaged during the Blitz, and a jumble of spare tiles was laid to cover the gaps.

But the tiles are about to be replaced. And Lord Sewel, who holds the position equivalent to deputy speaker in the Lords, has promised to start the process of getting the two houses to agree on a plaque.