Cameron: No more dotting of 'i’s'

David Cameron

There is a paradox in David Cameron's speech to the business lobby group, the CBI - excerpts from which were published in advance last night.

His main theme is the imperative for the government of putting the promotion of economic growth at the heart of everything it does, to re-engineer the British economy so that it does not stagnate in a Japanese way forever.

He says that the UK "is in the economic equivalent of war today" - and therefore the spirit of the World War II must be recreated in Whitehall.

Here is the intellectual heart of his address: "We need to forget about crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i' - and we need to throw everything we've got at winning in this global race."

He elaborates: Consultations, impact assessments, audits, reviews, stakeholder management, securing professional buy-in, complying with EU procurement rules, assessing sector feedback…this is not how we became one of the most powerful, prosperous nations on earth. It's not how you get things done. So I am determined to change this…"

Taken at face value, that is a radical statement to make to civil servants. He appears to be saying that bureaucratic mistakes will be forgiven, if the relevant bureaucrats make the mistakes to promote British prosperity.


For what it's worth, there is a fascinating test case of this spirit of forgiveness for errors made to improve the productivity of the UK: the botched awarding of the West Coast Mainline to FirstGroup.

The civil servants suspended for this booboo could argue that, in stripping Virgin of the franchise, they showed that competition is a reality in rail, which is good for growth. And they might well say that they were only trying to maximise proceeds for the taxpayer, to reduce the government's hideous deficit - also good for growth.

Unfortunately what they didn't do was dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" when creating and using the Department for Transport's complicated economic model for assessing franchise bids - which meant that in a judicial review of the Department's decision to go with First Group, launched by Virgin, the current holder of the franchise, the government was bound to lose.

So the transport minister was forced to perform a humiliating volte face and go back to the drawing board - at a cost for the taxpayer which may well run to hundreds of millions of pounds.

In that case, David Cameron - surely - would have wanted those "i's dotted and the "t's" crossed.

But here's a funny thing - which I am sure is a bit of a coincidence.

In order to get growth going by minimising delays to the awarding of big contracts of economic significance, the prime minister wants there to be fewer judicial reviews (there were 11,200 judicial reviews last year, up from just 160 in 1975).

Mr Cameron wants to increase the charges for bringing a review, so that "people think twice about time-wasting" (Virgin does not think it was time wasting, by the way). And Mr Cameron wants no one to have the right to appeal a decision in this way more than twice, a halving of the current maximum number of appeals.

Now the theory is that delays to building fast-track rail lines through countryside or new runways in residential areas of the south east would shrink - creating jobs in the short term and improving productive infrastructure in the medium term.

Oh, and by the way, presumably it won't take quite as long to deport suspected terrorists.

All of which you either regard as a belated dose of common sense, or as a fearful trampling on individual liberties. You decide.

But here's the paradox I mentioned. The reform of the judicial review system will only happen after a "public engagement exercise on the plans", followed by "consideration of the responses". In other words there will be a review of the decision to curb the growth of judicial reviews - which sounds like dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's".

It will be fascinating to see how and whether the prime minister's growth-promoting judicial-review changes survive the scrutiny of Whitehall. Will his war on "i-dotting" be stymied by "t-crossing"?

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • Comment number 365.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Delusional Discourse from Dave. Democracy to Die. Duplicitous, Despotic, Demonic. Debt Down? Defer & Dither. Dividends Delivered Defended Deposited Disguised. Dave Dead man walking! Depose or Decade of Destitution and Despair. Welcome to the D Party!!

  • Comment number 363.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Risk taking got us where we are today. In the s**t.

    Cameron does not have a clue. General Election now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.


    Active Quislings? Partially obliged? Guilty in degrees. Maybe.

    The majority are beaten into submission.

    This is not a matter of education. It is a matter of correction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    359. If you think the NHS is a good example of 'spending other people's money' well said.It is. Meantime, 'firemensaction' stop playing pool and put some fires out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Has everyone FORGOTTEN so SOON what a MESS the last left wing big state, spend it all, remove liberties, start wars, swamp uk with immigrants, give back eu rebate, ruin education clowns made such a short time ago?
    As for Tories breaching liberties, Well, Labour started it with No trial detention, belmarsh and ASBOs.
    Socialists are experts in spending other peoples` money. NHS a good example

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    If MrCameron wants to do something useful before 2015,why doesn`t he stop Insurance companies from ensuring the young cannot afford insurance for their first car,and that government are to restict the young still further by banning new drivers from taking family for a ride to show Mum they can now drive! new (tory) proposal aimed at "reducing teenager accidents" Reducing Rights of Young more like

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    My view - breach of liberties. So far out of touch. His plans for ramshackle lean tos attached to crammed in houses and now he right to plunder the land will definitely wreck this green and pleasant land. Definitely not what his Eton tutors would be supporting. Naughty boy!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Yet more verbiage from the PM (well presented admittedly) but as ever fundamentally irrelevant - it won't be delivered.Can't wait for Lynton Crosby to 'mastermind' Cameron's electoral defeat in 2015 and,surprise surprise,be engaged again by Johnson 'emptying the piggy-bank' to manage his Tory leadership campaign.G'day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Dispensation with absurd: commended to previous government to allow full profit from bank bail-out

    With Coalition re-kindling crisis, commendation re-issued, still with no intelligent response

    Now, depths plumbed, at last some sign - even if erratic - of Cameron urgency?

    War-footing for economic 'rebalance', in a fast-changing world:

    Equal income rations, stable demand, all to pull together

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    I second that!

    There is always such a horrible feeling about life when the Torys get into power. Thatcher has a lot to answer for and if there is an after life she wont need a coat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    19th November 2012 - 9:06

    David must win the next election, if Miliband wins, I'll be moving to china

    Please go now, don't wait I will buy you a one way ticket with one provizo you take the whole rotten, coniving, selfserving coalition with you.
    Then the UK can start to rebuild and recover from the insane destruction of egocentric economics and politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    I really feel for the man and would seriously like to help him. Now if he was a dog or a horse in similar mental anguish, it would be merciful and very quick, I'd get my vet to put him out of his misery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    Does this mean no more dotty ideas from a seriously deluded and dotty prime minister?

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    THE Government has been given permission to launch a further bid to prevent secret documents about Nestlé’s controversial takeover of York confectioners Rowntree in 1988.
    what do THE Government not want to come out now

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    A Government which appears to be entirely motivated by a populist, vacuous ideology will invariably produce such incoherent policy proposals as these. The most obscene conceit is surely the comparison between our current socioeconomic situation and the bloody struggles of WW2. One is left wondering, are there no depths to which this Government will not sink as it attempts to justify itself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    It is not "to promote British prosperity", but this govt wants to promote "British Insecurity" (they are implementing the Beacroft report bit by bit). Their true agenda is to bribe workers' Rights away, and create an Economy where every worker feels threatened and bullied so that they can never have a right of appeal. The Literal Doormats are aiding & abetting this feral agenda with glee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    The only PM ever to promote short cuts (no more U-Turns then?)who clearly does not understand Business. On a day when the Great British Marque Hovis (following Comet's & Fords)announced 900 job losses the only concern this incompetent govt are worried about is how to make it easier to fire workers- that is their true agenda. Don't see any "ts" and "is" in P45-this govt should be given theirs now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    ComradeOgilvy @334
    "Whether 'tis Nobler"?

    Fairly gentle, "the question"
    Recognising "outrageous Fortune"

    As between "opposing" to end "Slings & Arrows",
    Or being obliged, by outrageousness, "to suffer"

    With respect to "Nobler in the mind", not so "harsh" to align with more active Quislings those not wholly "obliged" to be wholly silent on Equal Partnership

    'Persuasion' an excuse, in degrees?


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