A hat tip to Tractor Stats for setting me on the trail of this one….
Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Gordon Brown was at a poetry reading in London, naturally accompanied by a helpful posse of reporters…..
He announced that he had ‘purchased all of the UK’s available corrugated iron sheets to provide shelters for victims of the Haiti earthquake’.
Sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it?
The move would provide ’2,000 homeless families in Haiti with hurricane proof shelter’. Still sounds OK? Even though there were approximately 150,000 homeless families, at least Britain was doing its bit.
Then you read that the total purchase was 5,700 sheets….
There are only 5,700 sheets of corrugated iron in the whole of the UK? Something wrong here. We invented corrugated iron, we are mass producers of the stuff – by Corus amongst others…..
And we are planning to hand out less than three sheets of corrugated iron per family? Definitely something wrong.
It has taken me some time to get to the bottom of this one. I phoned several of the largest corrugated iron manufacturers……and once we had got over the confusion caused by the fact that it is actually corrugated steel these days, though the name corrugated iron persists, they were as incredulous as I was.
“5,700 sheets – I’ve got 250,000 grands worth in me yard right now”
“He’s what? Pull the other one girl, there must be a million sheets in the UK – we’re in the middle of a recession or hadn’t you noticed”
“Might be what was left in the Corus yard when it closed, probably part of the Tata deal”.
A pretty universal derision at the initial statement from our Gordon!
Eventually I got onto the Department for International Development. Fascinating!
You may be homeless, you may be in desperate straits, but there are rules and regulations to be abided by…
Britain has International agreements which govern the size and thickness of the corrugated sheets we are allowed to donate. Anything else would apparently cause confusion as you attempt to shelter from the rain and the winds under a collection of sheets that were not altogether uniform in size with those arriving from, say France, or the USA. You might not care about such things, but the civil servants in charge of these matters do.
“As part of the UK’s response to the Haiti earthquake, DFID and other NGOs sent humanitarian supplies, including corrugated iron sheets, on RFA Largs Bay. It was imperative these sheets conformed to international humanitarian standards, to ensure the best and safest shelter for homeless Haitians.
“DFID’s humanitarian response team were offered 5,700 pre-made sheets, conforming to international requirements, at a cost of £35,000 from supplier Steelwork International. Given the urgency of the situation and the tight timescale before the ship sailed, it was not possible to produce and test new sheets for quality and value for money; therefore the pre-made sheets were purchased.
What Gordon Brown meant to say was “2,000 Haiti families will be sheltering under precisely 2 and 8/10th of a sheet each of the only corrugated iron currently in stock by one particular manufacturer that meets the tensile strength and size requirements laid down by bored civil servants at some time in the past and I consider this something worth boasting about”.
If he can’t tell the truth about a simple matter like this – how can we believe his lies about the more important figures – like the state of the countries deficit?