In the second episode of the first series of Yes Minister Jim Hacker is confronted by a pile of paper in his in-tray.
He asks his Private Secretary how he is meant to get through this in one day.
His private secretary says to him, “pick it up, don’t read it and put it in the out-tray and the system will deal with it”.
It seems some in the MoD have seen this episode.
Here’s an example of life imitating art, with Nick Harvey in the Times newspaper today:
Nick Harvey, a former Lib Dem Armed Forces Minister, recalls being presented with 70 pages of A3 spreadsheets full of “low impact” savings ahead of the spending review. “There was no way we could sift through this vast amount of data, but there was a pressure to settle so this got waved through. And of course in the that followed some of these measures proved not to be as “low impact” as predicted” he says. “I can see how the Chancellor ended up having all the trouble with the pasty tax and the caravan tax. The Civil Service has its pet hates.”
Nick Harvey was Armed Forces Minister during the widely-discredited SDSR which had to have decisions reversed, which left capability gaps, which wasted millions of taxpayer pounds in a chaotic aircraft carrier policy and which cut allowances for those on the frontline.
This seems less like civil service “pet hates” but Ministerial incompetence at the heart of government.