Tory sell-offs denounced as 'Arthur Daley economics'

THE Conservative government was guilty of "Arthur Daley economics," a minister claimed yesterday as new criticisms emerged of financial practices before the general election.

Ian McCartney, the trade and industry minister, said a damning National Audit Office report on water privatisation was an indictment of 18 years of Conservative rule.

"The Tories were caught practising Arthur Daley economics and flogging off the nation's assets as if they were at a car boot sale. It is no wonder they were kicked out of office," he said.

As Mr McCartney issued his statement, a further NAO report criticised the pounds 1.25m purchase in 1990 of an NHS information system. The system's author was employed to develop it despite owning a firm which went then made pounds 850,000 profit from it over five years.

Sir John Bourn, the head of the NAO, says in the report that the deal had created a potential conflict of interest for Dr James Read.

Dr Read, a GP based in Leicestershire, had spent a great deal of his own time and money developing Read Codes, a computer-based thesaurus of clinical terms and synonyms designed to allow doctors to communicate with one another more easily.

In 1988, the codes were chosen for adoption across the NHS and in December the following year Dr Read agreed to sell them for pounds 600,000 - a figure which then rose to pounds 1.25m two months later.

Dr Read then became the first director of the new NHS Centre for Coding and Classification, which developed the codes. His firm, Computer Aided Medical Systems Limited, was given exclusive rights to distribute and support them.

Sir John's report is particularly critical of the way the NHS executive handled the issue. It had finally decided to replace Dr Read as director of the centre only in December 1996, after the NAO investigation into the case had begun.

"In particular we believe [the executive] should make it clear that the NHS should not employ people to develop or promote goods or services in which they have a financial interest," the report said.

Last night, the NHS executive said it would respond fully to the criticisms at a hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee on 23 March. It remained fully committed to Dr Read's system as a standard vocabulary for the NHS, it added.

The Conservative administration came under further fire yesterday from Tony Blair after an NAO report warned that more than pounds 300m was missing from a pension fund set up following the privatisation of the water industry.

"It is extraordinary that as a result of Conservative privatisations literally hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money was lost - money that was squandered, money that could have been spent on better services," the Prime Minister said.

"The very fact that they behaved so badly when privatising some of our essential public services is the reason why they must never be allowed back in charge of those services again."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue