Sunday, 14 October 2012

What does this robust mean?

The last time I wrote about a 'robust' system it related to Justine Greening describing the selection process for the West Coast main line. She was obviously wrong in using this word but I haven't heard any apologies yet. Apart from the obvious error that the system was far from robust, her use of this word must now mean we need to take a pinch of salt whenever we hear it. Another Tory offered a possible defence for Justine in that ministers don't look at any details and rely on their advisers. My point was that a minister still remains responsible regardless of how much advice they receive.

Today I heard that the Defence Secretary, Phillip Hammond had used the word robust. So did he mean to say frail? The Sunday Times had filmed some retired military officers who were able to lobby on behalf of defence companies and so influence ministers. What did these officers do wrong? It is fairly certain that ministers can't make decisions for themselves and need help from experts.

The BBC reported that 'The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was investigating whether it was possible for anyone to secure "privileged access" and whether any rules had been broken'. You don't need an investigation as I can tell you what one former Secretary of State for Transport (Justine) would say. Ministers need help from others and this may be termed privilege as many companies, and individuals for that matter, would like to bend back their lug holes. These retired officers fit the bill as advisers except for one detail. They retired less than two years ago and rules state that retired officers have to be out of touch before they can offer advice.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told Andrew Marr "There is no way that retired officers influence the way military equipment is procured. I'm satisfied that the system we have is completely robust". Well why is it only possible to get help from officers who have retired for at least two years?  Does robust mean frail or does it mean out of touch.

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