Friday, November 23, 2007

House Points: Northern Rock and the missing discs

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrats News.

Darling's disaster

Some people say government is hopelessly inefficient and cannot be trusted with the smallest task. Others believe free enterprise is hopelessly greedy and short-sighted and is not to be trusted at all.

Worryingly, the events of this week suggest both are right.

On Monday Alistair Darling came to the House to announce that he has loaned £24bn to Northern Rock with no immediate prospect of getting it back. That’s £900 for every taxpayer in Britain. And then there’s the £18bn he has given in deposit guarantees. Oh yes, and half the bank’s assets have been made over to an offshore company.

His North Eastern backbenchers saw nothing wrong with this. There are 6500 jobs at stake. But 6500 jobs for £24bn and counting? If you are not a director of Northern Rock, you can do the maths for yourself.

On Tuesday Darling was back. Two computer discs holding the bank details of every family in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing. Someone stuffed them into a jiffy bag and posted them, but they never turned up at the other end.

That, the government says, is no reason why the national identity card scheme should not go ahead. And what is the problem with the three separate databases this government is planning to compile on the nation’s children?

By the time you read this, Darling will have been back on Wednesday to explain that the Chief Cashier has forgotten the combination to the vaults of the Bank of England. He thinks it is something to do with his wife’s birthday and hopes to remember it soon.

And he will have been back on Thursday too. The good news is the Chief has now remembered the combination. The bad news is he has left Britain’s gold reserves on a no. 73 bus and they have not been handed in yet.

Looking back, it would have saved Darling a lot of grief if he had just handed the bank details over to Northern Rock and let it help itself to what it thinks it needs.

For my own part, I am going to buy a rifle, head for Montana or the Shropshire hills and raise goats. We’re all doomed, I tell you.

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