Lots of interest in the decision by the Public Administration select committee today to open an inquiry into leaks and whistleblowing in Whitehall. This is obviously a hot topic given the Damian Green affair.
Separately, there should be plenty of interest in Sir Gus O’Donnell when the cabinet secretary appears in front of the PAC on Thursday morning at 10am. He is appearing for a routine inquiry into the civil service.
But the questioning will be rather more topical: “In light of recent events, the Committee is also likely to raise with Sir Gus the issue of unauthorised disclosures of information in government.”
The details of the new inquiry into Whitehall leaks will emerge in January.
In the meantime one member of the PAC tells me privately that there are plans for a new investigation into “bad language by politicians”. By which he means jargon rather than swearing.
The public are sick of MPs and officials using acronyms and other opaque language, the MP tells me. He cites the word “contestability” as the ultimate example: “Was the word made up by someone as a joke?” he asks. “It’s now used everywhere but does anyone know what the hell it means?”
“Contestability” is a word I’ve heard everywhere but never bothered to find out what it meant. My dog-eared Concise Oxford Dictionary does not even list the word; although “contestable” (strive in argument) is there.
Good old Wikepedia has the following: “In economics, a contestable market is a market served by only one firm, but with mandated “competitive” pricing, so as to escond the monopoly held by said firm on said market.”
I think what they are trying to say is this: “Contestability” means a situation where a provider faces a credible threat of competition rather than actual competition.