Episode 5 Ė Normington Crescent
Sir Gus O'Donnell KCB, still Cabinet Secretary, welcomes Sir David Normington KCB, still Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to his inner sanctum:
god: David, lovely to see you, come in, youíre looking well, sit down, have a biccy.
dn: Thank you, Gus. Youíre looking very well yourself. Not too many Cabinet Secretaries whoíve rescued the nation from a hung parliament and put together a coalition to boot, eh?
god: Well, no, just one as a matter of fact. Bit of a feather in the cap for the civil service, Iíd say.
dn: Of course, it could all go wrong.
god: Yes. But that would be a black eye for the politicians.
dn: As you say.
god: I suppose my name is Mudd with all you permanent secretaries labouring away at the coalface. Not one party telling you what to do, but two, twice the political interference?
dn: Not at all, Gus, it took us about 30 seconds to work out that actually itís just half the political interference. If the Minister issuing misguided directives is a Con, we simply have word sent to Nick that one of the other lot is imperilling the Coalition, or Dave if the Minister is a Lib Dem. Seems to keep order in the classroom ...
god: Very neat, David. And home affairs. How are you surviving round at Marsham St under the Damocles meat cleaver of cuts?
dn: Itís brutal out there, Gus, hand to hand. The Home Office budget has been scythed by two whole percent.
god: Oh lord. A real cut of 4%.
dn: Only if you use CPI. With RPI itís a real cut of 7%.
god: Hard times, David, the belt must be tightened. How about forecast?
dn: Weíve forecast an expenditure increase of 10%. And had to accept a target of 5%.
god: So no real increase at all.
dn: Increase? With public sector inflation on about 8%, thatís a real decrease. Gus, itís going to be tough limping along next year with only an extra 500 million or so. But we will do our duty.
god: A duty which has changed, I notice ...
dn: ... positively unrecognisable ...
god: ... no ID cards.
dn: Quite so. The Minister was adamant. Adamant and eloquent. And implacable. No ID cards.
god: Golly. Thatís going to make quite a difference, isnít it. No National Identity Register?
dn: Quite so. No National Identity Register.
dn: True. But weíre going to delete it anyway.
god: And all the data?
dn: Yes, thatís true as far as it goes for the data qua National Identity Register data, yes that will be deleted.
god: What else could it be?
dn: Passport data. And itís against the law for us to delete passport data. So weíre keeping it. We have to.
god: Sailing a bit close to the wind, arenít you? Youíll never get that past the Identity Commissioner.
dn: Oh I think we might, you know, you see heís gone. A sad victim of the swingeing cuts weíre all suffering from. The only victim, actually. Poor chap. Heís a pensioner, you know. Subsisting on the index-linked bread and water of a retired permanent secretary. Only now, heíll have two or three years pay in addition, to buy out his contract. And maybe a peerage.
god: Poor brute. Things really have changed under this new administration. But you donít mean to tell me that Hallís survived? And IBM and CSC. And Cogent. And Atos Origin and Sagem. And Field Fisher Waterhouse and M&C Saatchi and Abbott Mead Vickers and Proximity and PA Consulting. They canít all still be there. Can they?
dn: Every one of them. There is a certain irreducible minimum below which we cannot sink.
dn: Bad news there, Gus. It looks as though our intransigent new masters want to move Linís Border Force from UKBA to SOCA.
god: But thereíll still be a Border Force?
dn: Oh yes. But the letterhead will be different. Fairer. More responsible.
god: And eBorders? I assume that storing everyoneís travel details for ever and sharing them with all and sundry in the international travel industry fell victim to the Coalitionís strictures on intrusive government?
dn: Thatís certainly what I expected, Gus, but as a matter of fact the Minister hasnít mentioned eBorders. Iím not sure sheís even heard of it. It wasnít on Huhneís list and so it doesnít exist. Which is to say, that it will continue to exist unconstrained.
god: So Raytheon are still there, and so are you and so am I and the only person to go is a man who had retired already.
dn: Yes, itís going to take a while to adapt to the new administration, isnít it Gus, with all its innovations. I must say, Iím quite giddy trying to keep up.
David Moss has spent seven years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme.
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd