Hardly a day passes but someone arrives at the allotments witha tale of woe about the latest cuts. The housebound now spend most of their days in bed as a result of the home carers services being slashed, meals-on-wheels are but a distant memory, the local children’s charity has closed.. the list is a long one. Those of us of a less volatile nature than Albert tend to trot out the cliches about all being in it together and money not growing on trees, but even we are stunned by the government’s ability to turn a blind eye to tax evaders and to produce, as if from a magician’s hat, buckets of cash for its pet projects.
Over £32 billion has been earmarked for the 100-mile high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. This incredibly expensive brainwave will eventually reduce journey times by 35 minutes, and we are supposed to believe that the top businessmen likely to use it will, as a result of the time saved, be able to transform our economy. The fact that such wizards tend to work on the train has been swept aside, as has the fact that the existing rail network desperately requires investment.
But, with the final approval for this madness due at any time, a number of senior Conservative MPs, who represent constituencies around the Chilterns, have let it be known that they may rebel given the certain scarring of an area of natural beauty. Indeed, Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, has let it be known that she just might resign. No problem. Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, will announce next week that she has found £500,000 and will use it to fund a one-and-a-half-mile tunnel under the Chiltern Hills near Amersham.
Clearly money is no object when it comes to what many leading lights have described as a white elephant in the making. To hell with the housebound, this is a prestigeous asset we must have despite the fact that we are a small island and the time saved via higher speeds – trains on that route already run at 125mph – is inevitably small.
We can take it as read that, despite all the protests about priorities, the project will be approved. Then we can await revelations in Private Eye about the contractors and their connections with senior politicians.
Even in good times this venture would be open to debate, to pursue it so frantically right now beggars belief. But it is nice to know that there is still plenty of spare cash available!
LANSLEY IS STILL SOMEWHAT SECRETIVE!
My story about the refusal of the Health Secretary to publish the government’s own risk assessment of his much debated NHS Reform bill caught the eye of the Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle
I have a letter from him making clear that he believes it “essential that the risk register is published immediately”, and he goes on to confirm that he has written to the Secretary of State for Health “urging him to release the information so that it can inform the debate currently taking place in parliament about NHS reform”.
But the register remains under wraps. We don’t need too much imagination to work out the reason!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THIS WEEKEND QUIZ! ANSWERS TOMORROW!!
1. Alan Shearer’s league career finished with a game against which team? 2. Which Kenny Rogers hit starts, “On a bar in Toledo…”? 3. In which sport is there a piste other than skiing? 4. Which member of Queen would have been 60 in September 2006? 5. Which Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced TESSA? 6. Which character was played by Dooley Wilson in “Casablanca”? 7. Who wrote the play “Private Lives”? 8. Who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner? 9. Whose hits include “Waterfront” and “Alive and Kicking”? 10. Voords, Krotons and Autons have all appeared in which TV series?