At our team meeting today, the two main discussion topics are Steve’s position as Technical Advisor and lines to take at FW/6.
[Background: FW/6 was the technical committee at British Standards responsible for furniture flammability. John Lord deliberately informed Jo Swinson, the Minister, that I had brought a Civil Service Code case against my managers – for failing to implement the new match test in April 2015. This gave her no choice but to ignore my government response to the 2014 consultation and instead choose Lord’s. His was a put-up job which would have delighted industry in that it instigated at least another year’s delay in bringing in the match test. The main justification he gave for this was to say that we needed to get FW/6 to provide more input to the test (which we didn’t, of course). The meeting with them was looming and there were complications, not least of which was that Steve had just been elected as the new Chair of FW/6 . . . ]
Chris’s opening comment about the upcoming FW/6 meeting says it all, really: “We’re covered because the Minister didn’t promise anything.” She means, of course, that John’s published government response that he conned past the Minister didn’t promise anything. And even then, that’s not strictly true; the response’s Next Steps actually say:
“The aim of this would be to enable BIS to launch a new consultation early in the next Parliament, covering all the proposed changes to the Regulations which stem from the stakeholder discussions outlined above, complete with draft regulations, guidance and further technical explanations.
“This would in principle enable the full review to be completed by April 2016.”
Maybe one day, Swinson will realise that when she instructed her officials to get the new match test in by April 2016, they actually made sure that was going to be an uphill task, i.e. by changing the aim, without her permission, to – as it says above – getting a review of allthe Regulations in by that time (no chance) and even then, it’s only ‘in principle’. If future historians ever want to work out why millions of UK citizens continued to be poisoned by the furniture in their own homes long after it was necessary, they should head for these ‘Next Steps’ by Mr Lord (not his real name) and see just how powerful a single mendatious sociopathic civil servant can be when he has a wealthy and rewarding industry to suck up to.
Barbara’s solution to the ‘Steve problem’ (i.e. he’s now Chair of FW/6) is one of two options:
1) British Standards are asked to provide a stand-in Chair for this particular meeting. Steve of course can still speak.
2) Steve is asked to step out of the room when the BIS material is discussed.
Here in all its glory is the senior civil servant’s extraordinary hubris. Because, it hasn’t occurred to Barbara for a moment that this is FW/6’s meeting, not BIS’s; not hers to control. She, like most of her kind, spends her entire time telling lower ranks what to do and think; therefore assumes an outside body will allow her to do the same. She also has already forgotten the farce she caused by trying to railroad a group of test experts not so long ago – particularly the part where she was literally stamping her feet and crying, “You’re not listening to me!”
On 2) even John can’t restrain himself from pointing out that allthe material at this meeting is BIS’s.
Barbara has also only just noticed that Steve is still our technical advisor, and has decided to let him go. She says that she, Chris and I will phone him on Thursday to give him the news.
Then it’s time to discuss what lines we’ll take at FW/6 and things get a bit fruity. Sorry, when I say ‘we’, I do of course mean ‘Terry’. Because, while I have to listen to these higher ranks talking well-enunciated bollocks, it’s me who’s going to have to face a roomful of vested interests at FW/6. Sorry, when I say ‘fruity’ I reall mean ‘fruit and nutty’.
John is now annoyed because British Standards have not actually done anything since he and Barbara coerced them into agreeing to look further at the regs, and they’ve now only got one month left to do so, if we’re to meet the new deadline of implementing in April 2016. Not that he wants to meet the deadline necessarily but he does want to be seen to be ‘doing something’. He thinks it’s down to bad adminstration at BS and doesn’t react when I point out that the Minister agreed with them having 12 months in which to do the ‘work’ – it’s John who changed it. I point out further that Sir Ken and the others had won 12 months off Swinson and were not going to now agree to just 6. He doesn’t like me saying this of course, since he made this change without Swinson’s permission. Incredibly he then suggests, and the rest agree, that I should tell them they’ve got a month to deliver. This is the same John, of course, who remained utterly silent a few months back when Sir Ken bullied us into the 12 months in the first place.
I remind them that weasked for this meeing with BS and that making such a demand will only cause bad feeling. And then the ultimate irony – John says I should tell them, tough, get on with it, and if they come and complain to the Minister, so be it.
And true to form, he then decrees that Chris and I need to work out the actual lines to take for the meeting since he has other things to be ‘doing something’ about.
Had a long talk with Steve this evening. He was quite amused at his forthcoming ‘sacking’ as our technical advisor. He’d already told UKTLF that he was no longer in that role anyway. Oh, and UKTLF [association of test houses] have decided that the match test is ready to go and are considering challenging our commission to British Standards on the grounds that it’s unnecessary. If they do that, Steve as Chair of FW/6, will put me on the spot to defend BIS’s commission. Please do, I said. That should make an interesting ‘line’ to discuss with Chris tomorrow. He also said he’ll stick it to Barbara in her phone call to him by commenting on what a great job Terry has been doing on the match test.
He also said that in persisting with this, it’s uncovered just how corrupt the industry is. But the problem with that is it will just increase the cover-up and it’s the UK consumer who’ll suffer.
Which is the eternal dilemma of anyone who’s trying to do the right thing. While the bought just throw statements and commands that don’t stand up to any kind of honest scrutiny, the good guys have to spend much time explaining why the evidence suggests they can’t do things that way. They also face the problem in doing so of how much they reveal that they’re on to them. Because once the bad guys know you know they can of course shift their machinations to one side, thereby causing you a whole barrel more work.
In other words, while Barbara and John decree that they have other things to do so can’t face FW/6 and the many guests scheduled to come, including Sir Ken Knight, it’s me who’ll be standing in front of a whole gaggle of mixed and overlapping vested interests (since there’s no way Chris will do so [and in the event she did indeed cry off sick at the last minute]). It’s me who has had to spend the past few years getting up to speed so they can’t overwhelm me with techno-babble. It’s me who’s spent eleven years building solid relations with them so that I can at least resist them without it getting too acrimonious. It’s me who once again will have to look Sir Ken in the eye and face up to that well-connected, calmly overbearing, establishment-backed “You will do as I say” command.
Why will I do this? Because it would be wrong not to.