by MONITOR
IT was Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat's much-maligned leader, who asked the Prime Minister three weeks ago, “Is the Home Office fit for purpose?” Yesterday Mr Campbell got his answer from the new Home Secretary John Reid who told a committee of MPs that his department was “not fit for purpose”, and added: “It's inadequate in terms of its scope, it's inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes.” This frank and damning assessment of one of the most important departments in the British government raises questions that will not be answered by Mr Reid's decision to swap the responsibilities of a couple of junior ministers. It points the finger at his three predecessors in the job, Charles Clarke, David Blunkett and Jack Straw, and leads to doubts over whether such a department should be charged with the responsibility for introducing identity cards to Britain, one of the most complex technological operations ever contemplated by government. Michael Howard, who has had to take a lot of stick from Labour about his tenure of the Home Office in the mid-1990s, was quick to seize on Mr Reid's admission and to insist that the department was certainly “fit for purpose” when he handed it over to Labour after the 1997 election. Tony Blair's most recent Cabinet shuffle was not impressive but in putting Mr Reid at the Home Office he may have got one thing right.