Sunday, April 02, 2006

Public Inquiries

Monstra mihi pecuniam

One of the most enduring, and annoying, aspects of modern life is the iniquitous and omnipresent call for a public inquiry whenever something goes wrong. Incidentally, either spelling - “inquiry” or “enquiry” are correct in general usage. Whenever there is a problem – perceived or real – you can bet someone, somewhere will be calling for a public inquiry. These calls are seldom granted. Why?

Mostly because the government or powers that be are not all that keen to spend lots of money on something that is likely to be critical of them and take a long time; thereby keeping the “problem” in the public eye for far longer than usual. There is some justification for this position as it is the taxpayer who eventually has to foot the bill. Thank the government for saving our money. Really, I mean it – thanks a lot.

There are times when the call for a public inquiry is justified and should be granted. For example, rail safety. After crashes at Ladbroke Grove and Southall, public inquiries were held and recommendations were made. How scandalous is it then that no such scrutiny into the deaths of rail passengers, whose only “fault” is crossing the tracks in an effort to reach their train, has ever been held? This is where our money could be usefully spent in exposing the monumental complacency, bordering (in my opinion) on criminality, of Network Rail. A public enquiry might shed light on how much it would really cost to ensure that there were safe crossing places at every station. Until then, we're stuck with the ridiculous estimated of the cost involved given out by Network Rail to disguise their incompetence. Let's have a public enquiry.

Another prime candidate for public inquiry status is the deaths of trainee soldiers at Deep Cut barracks. Briefly, four recruits were found dead at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002. Army investigators said suicide. This is in spite of the fact that one of the soldiers was shot twice in the head (hard to do you'd think?) and another was shot twice in the chest with a shotgun. Yeah, right! This is a classic of its type. The government will not order a public inquiry because it's just possible that a) ministers may be found responsible for a cover-up and b) it could cost lots of money. It's a monumental scandal. Let's have a public inquiry.

While I'm badgering, hectoring mode, let's return (only figuratively) to the Thickthorne roundabout. Roundabout lovers in or near Norwich know this one well. Thickthorne is the most expensive roundabout in English road-building history (I bet I can prove this if tackled – anyone want to bet?). It has gobbled up more money and provided fewer ecstatic driving experiences than any other bit of road engineering in the world. Why can't we have a public inquiry into the waste of money at Thickthorne and, just for fun, throw in the lack of motorway links out of the county of Norfolk. This would be money well spent. Let's have a public inquiry.

Finally, We desperately need to find out where the news footage of coppers charging through a locked door comes from? You know the scenario. News comes on. Item reported about a drug raid/raid on a prostitution ring/Mr Big arrested/God knows what. Film clip shows many large coppers with helmets and visors charging through a door and up a flight of stairs. Come on. You've all seen it. And, the coppers are always immaculately dressed and poised for action. Now. Here's the question. Where do they get the large, metal battering ram that they use to smash the door down? Is there a company that makes these things? If so, what is it called? Rams R Us? Batter My Door Down? Wack-Um & Smack-Um? I want to know. Let's have a public inquiry.

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