Yes Minister! Reader offers tongue-in-cheek view of Roads Minister’s visit to Fenland

AFTER Roads Minister Mike Penning pledged support for Fenland road safety campaigners HARRY JONES, of March, offered this tongue-in-cheek view of how his visit may have been portrayed on 80s sitcom Yes Minister.

Sir Humphrey: “Then on Thursday you go to Chatteris.”

Minister: “Where on earth is that?”

Sir Humphrey: “In Cambridgeshire Minister. The area I believe is referred to as ‘The Fens’.”

Minister: “Why am I going there?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well Minister, you may recall you met with the new young member for that constituency. He feels he needs to appear to be responding to his constituents’ petitions about unfenced drains.”

Minister: “Unfenced what?”

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Sir Humphrey: “Unfenced drains Minister. As I understand it they are wide channels dug in the 16th century to take the water to the sea to reclaim the land for agriculture. Without this drainage the whole area would go under water.”

Minister: “So what’s the problem?”

Sir Humphrey: “When these drains were dug there were then no motor cars.”

Minister: “You amaze me.”

Sir Humphrey: “Now there are motor cars there have been in recent years an increasing number of rather tragic accidents with cars skidding into the water and their occupants drowning.”

Minister: “Sorry to hear it. Can anything be done?”

Sir Humphrey: “Sadly no. The constituents want barriers erected along the sides of the drains to prevent these occurrences. Unfortunately these drains extend for many miles and the cost would be prohibitive, certainly in the present economic climate. Nevertheless we must not appear to be heartless. A meeting has been arranged with the Member and some of the recently bereaved. The local press will be present.”

Minister: “So what am I to say?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well Minister, as the serious cuts in funds to local councils the Government is imposing will lead to local difficulties, the Government has devolved all expenditure to them, ‘freeing up councils to encourage local democracy’ is I believe the slogan. This passes the blame for something not being done to the local council, effectively passing the buck, if you pardon the phrase.”

Minister: “I get the picture. I go there, shake hands, express sincere condolences, say something must be done, and pose for photographs. Pass the responsibility to the council who I know can’t do anything because we’ve cut their funding.”

Sir Humphrey: “Precisely Minister. We have prepared a statement you might make:

I have already helped by giving councils more freedom on how they could spend road safety budgets. The pot of money may be not be as big but the ring fencing has been taken away. It is up to them to decide how it is spent.

Your colleague will ensure a headline in the local paper, ‘Minister’s Road Pledge’ without committing the Government or Council to actually doing anything.”

Minister: “I like it. Pity about the ‘ring fencing’ bit as its fencing they’re not getting. More care in drafting next time Sir Humphrey.”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes Minister.”

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