The Sketch: See the alien Lizard Queen reveal nothing!

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It seems there has been a U-turn of unusual bendiness. We can't understand it, but at least the scale of our misunderstanding is becoming clear.

Last week, Patricia Hewitt put a statement in the library saying the new trusts wouldn't be providing health delivery services. This week, Mr Burstow said, she soothed her incandescent back bench with the news that trust staff providing health delivery services would all keep their jobs.

The minister smiled her small, thin smile and by way of answer, reached up into her hairline, grasped a zip fastener and began tugging it down the front of her face. As she did so, we saw emerging into the flickering light of the Wilson Room the scaly features of a Venusian Lizard Queen, the most feared of alien oligarchs.

The mutant addressed the meeting for some time. It was impossible to follow what she said. It sounded like our common language but she had been able to use some alien jamming ray to suck the meaning straight out of our brains.

Another question. Doug Naysmith asked when a particular policy shift had occurred. For a long time, the Government had said it wouldn't replace NHS services with the private sector; now there was an overt policy to run 10 to 15 per cent public operations out of the private sector.

Without going into the pros and cons of that (personally, I'm rather in favour of it), it is extraordinary that a long-term member of the select committee had to ask such a question. The head of the Department, Sir Nigel Crisp, (who deserves very much more coverage than he gets) said the policy had been set in place about three years ago. I thought Mr Naysmith betrayed surprise at that.

These select committees get a lot of unthinking respect from us civilians. They are widely despised by the Government.

A fundamental change to the philosophy driving the NHS is made by bureaucrats three years ago and the committee isn't informed of it. The minister appears and waffles and blethers in some mutant-speak that may or may not mean anything and no one interrupts to make her answer properly. What these second-rate committees need is an inquisitor, a counsel hired to do what Dingemans did for Hutton. To take a brief and to do all the questioning of the witnesses. It's well beyond these MPs. Kevin Barron is the new chair. Is he up to anything?

There wasn't five minutes of content that came out of those two hours yesterday. The boredom and frustration were crimes against democracy - and dangerous ones at that.

How else, except by boring us into oblivion, could an alien Lizard Queen have taken over one of the great departments of state?

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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