John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, April 16, 2006
  Probation - the Devil's in the detail - like most things
According to the Independent a report later this month will
"question the ability of the Probation Service to protect the public from dangerous criminals"

In a sense this shows the way in which many issues cause a mass of column inches, but little is actually done to resolve the problems that are highlighted. The criminal justice system has so many errors in it that we should not be surprised when things go wrong. The government's solution with the police and Probation Service tends to focus on filling in forms rather than dealing with offenders. In the mean time rather than look from a whole system perspective and develop a plan that reduces criminality we end up with ideological battles over small parts of the system. In the mean time we have a system that actually acts to encourage criminality.

The important aspects of any system rest within the detail, but rarely is any proper attention given to the detail and hence little happens.

I have been spending some time looking at the failings of our current system of parliamentary scrutiny and concluded that much of this rests in the failure of ministerial responsibility. The principle that ministers tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to parliament has basically failed. Whether ministers actually know what the truth is is a question in doubt. They depend upon information from across the country much of which can be adjusted in various interesting ways. The end result is a bit of a shambles.

We see a similar issue in terms of the way in which media attention swings to an issue for just sufficient time for nothing to happen apart from spinning from a few ministers.

Two interesting tests of this are:

a) Jamie Oliver's School Meals debate. I am not aware of anything of substance that has changed as a result of that although I am sure that some superficial changes could be identified.

b) Live 8. Live 8 in my view was a major success because it reunited Pink Floyd. It also raised a lot of money. I am not sure what else it has done.

A lot of "Make Poverty History" grandstanding has ensued, but again I am not really sure what has changed of substance that affects people on the ground.

One area I will be campaigning over the next few months is to improve parliamentary scrutiny and ensure that ministers are held more accountable for their departments. I think I have worked out how to do this, but only time will tell.
 
Comments:
If I was you John I would be very wary about be so cynical about Live 8. Of course you are right that (the music aside) it had no real benefits but such a hard hearted view of things is surely unbecoming of a Lib Dem MP. Unless of course you are planning to outflank David Cameron's absurd tories on the right.
 
My view is that we need to work to eradicate poverty across the world. I do take the view that this involves having good systems of government and economic structures in other countries.

However, much that Live8 was a positive event, I do not think it helps to mislead people into thinking it was a key driver into any change or indeed that any substantial change has occurred.

Much of the proposals that were put forward prior to the suggestions of Live8 were the same as agreed after Live8.

Notwithstanding that, I have been a supporter of much of the principles behind "Make Poverty History".
 
Indeed, there's a danger that events such as Live8 just lull people into a sense that they've done something and now the issue can be forgotten.

Whilst I share the aims of Make Poverty History (who wouldn't) I am also wary because there have been attempts by the anti-globalisation lobby to hijack it. These people are very dangerous because despite meaning well, they put the very processes which could eleviate poverty at risk through their dogmatic opposition to free trade.
 
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