Hopeless Ineptitude Our Way of Life

Daily Mail (London), March 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Hopeless Ineptitude Our Way of Life


Byline: KEITH WATERHOUSE

THE FINDINGS of the long-awaited Waterhouse Inquiry into the shambling incompetence endemic to British life were leaked to a Sunday newspaper this weekend.

In the absence of Home Secretary Jack Straw who had skived off to the South of France, a Home Office official promptly sought an injunction from a High Court judge but unfortunately went to the wrong address.

By the time he had found the right house it was already Sunday morning.

The judge nevertheless granted the injunction after a five-minute hearing in his breakfast room. Noticing, however, that the Sunday paper he was reading over his boiled egg and toast soldiers contained a lengthy summary of the Report, thus rendering the injunction useless, he ran after the official to revoke his decision, tripped over the door-scraper and broke his nose.

Carried off to hospital, the judge intended to summon the Home Office official to his bedside, but no bed could be found for him and he was left languishing in a corridor, where he has been mislaid ever since. Meanwhile, the Home Office attempted to ring the editor of the offending newspaper to impose the injunction, but owing to a misunderstanding they were put through to the mystified editor of the Beano comic by mistake.

Thus it was that full details of the Waterhouse Report have been widely published, except in the Beano.

The Report robustly condemns what it calls 'the institutionalised ineptitude' to be found at practically every level - in government, the civil service, the judiciary, the police, the NHS, the BBC, the education system, in local authorities, the social services, the railways, the parcel delivery services, the water companies, the banks, minicab firms, the British Library, the Millennium Dome, and the people who have been causing widespread traffic disruption by digging up the Mall without telling anybody.

Among its 250 far-reaching recommendations the Report calls for it to be made a criminal offence for public utilities and stores delivering furniture to refuse to give a specific time when they can call; and for it to be another criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment, if they don't turn up.

SHOPS, especially book shops, which cannot call up goods from the warehouse in under 28 days, and not even then if there is anyone off with a bad back or the computer is down, would face crippling fines.

It would be an offence for the police to fail to investigate a crime on the grounds that their resources are overstretched; or for any railway company to run its trains late on the grounds that it is somebody else's fault; or for any local authority to leave public works unattended on the grounds that it must give priority to something else. …

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