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Saturday, December 27, 2008

At the end of the day

Apparently it is a bit early for links on the Western Mail website so I am going to have to make do with the hard copy. This is because in an hour or so I am going to be separated from the internet for 48 hours and do not have time to come back and update entries.

What caught my attention was the proposed New Year inquiry by the House of Commons' Public Administration Select Committee into Whitehall jargon. No doubt this will involve watching the entire collection of 'Yes Minister' and 'Yes Prime Minister' followed by swift condemnation of obfuscation and circumlocution, all written in the best Parliamentary language.

Newport West MP, Paul Flynn is quoted as believing that the phrases "at this moment in time" and "at the end of the day" are particularly tiresome. Has he told the Assembly's Health Minister? Nevertheless, no self-respecting civil servant would be caught using such a non sequitur, these are phrases mostly used by politicians and thus are outside the scope of the Committee's inquiry.

I can certainly sympathise with Paul when he complains that was once confronted with a sentence in a committee document consisting entirely of acronyms. When I was chair of the Assembly's Education Committee I insisted on having a glossary of acronyms and phrases issued to every committee member so as to assist them with reports.

The paper quotes the tax credit system as a good example of over-administration and I cannot dispute that. The problem with this system however is not so much in the language it uses but in its design and concept. If the Committee can go anyway towards improving its operation then it would have done a worthwhile job.

Alas, the tax credit system itself seems to be outside of the inquiry's remit so we are left with the questions as to what exactly MPs hope to be able to achieve and is an examination of language as opposed to Government actions really a good use of their time?
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