back to article David Davis: Jobless should dig trenches for fat UK pipes

Maverick Tory MP and former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis used this morning's Times to call for BT to raise an army of unwashed, unemployed oiks to build the UK's next generation broadband network. The story lay behind Murdoch's paywall undisturbed and garnered with just seven reader comments and five "Recommends", until …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other words.

    "Apart from its mainly urban population, South Korea also benefited from massive government subsidies to the incumbent operator and also benefits from not having had to open up its network to rival operators – as BT has had to do."

    In other words, Mr Davis, massive infrastructure works better when nationalised, not when privatised.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      The purring of the fat cat

      >>massive government subsidies to the incumbent operator

      Diversion of resources to building infrastructure that possibly no-one needs? No telco is against THAT.

      >>not having had to open up its network to rival operators

      Higher prices [not to mention "licensing fees" etc.] than would be provided in a competitive environment? No telco is against THAT.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Corporate fat cats?

        "Diversion of resources to building infrastructure that possibly no-one needs?"

        Public transport system? Who could possibly need that. Enjoying your rising petrol / gas prices?

        Modern telecommunications system? You know this internet thingy we're all busy masturbating into? A shiny present to humanity from the private sector, was it?

        "Higher prices than would be provided in a competitive environment?"

        So who are the shareholders coining it off the customer in this scenario? Remind me again how a commitment to maximising profit is necessarily good for the rest of us.

        "Or perhaps having massive national monopolies only works when they receive government subsidies because they are so useless and inefficient."

        If you're trying to imply that the private sector is necessarily more efficient than the private sector, please provide scientific proof. Otherwise, let's assume the case unproven, and let's therefore not keep handing money to private investors (who already have enough share of our pie thank you very much) just because Nigel Lawson has an opinion about something.

        There's more disagreement between economists than there is between climatologists.

    2. Neil Stansbury
      Thumb Down


      Or perhaps having massive national monopolies only works when they receive government subsidies because they are so useless and inefficient.

      Because when BT was a nationalised company it was such a technically brilliant company that offered great customer service and was the envy of the world - yeah right.

      The key words here are: "incumbent", "incompetent", "inefficient".

      The answer is simple, run mechanical moles up the central reservations of our motorway network, after that onto the dual-carriageways and A-Roads, the rest we'll get with 4G.

      1. sam 16

        Wireless last mile...

        Remember that wireless bandwidth is shared by everyone using the same channel.

        I calculate that, using all licensed mobile band width, 4G will provide about 4Gb/s capacity, shared by everyone in your cell. The real maximum will be much lower than this, effected by interference and multipath.

        4Gb/s sounds like a lot, but there are currently about 5000 people a cell, so you'd get less than 1mb each.

        This can be mitigated using much smaller cell sizes with lower transmitter power, but at some point you run into trouble getting the signal into buildings.

        Personally, I think that a network of directional transmitters / receivers, like the microwave network already used to ferry data around the country, would be a great way of avoiding all that digging.

        Rather than, y'know, using slave labor.

        Cutting a kids food money because their mum doesn't want to do hard labor so I can watch porn while telecommuting seems a bit disproportionate. And that is ultimately what this is.

        1. Aulty

          web without wires

          That's exactly what you can get where I live in Ripley, Derbyshire, check out W3Z, it's part of a company called Zycomm and they do wireless internet locally, based in Ripley.

          I don't use them as I have 12MB wired broadband, but some villages round here do benefit from their services.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Already there

        Most of the m/ways already have fibre-optic cables laid.

        Done at the behest of, and paid for by, the highways agency.

        The road system has its own high-speed-data network.

        Mehcanical moles ?

        Up the centre...with all the power cables and the other gear....those things are really good at f***ing-up utilities as they wander along underground.

      3. strum
        Thumb Down

        Poor example

        >Because when BT was a nationalised company it was such a technically brilliant company that offered great customer service and was the envy of the world - yeah right.

        That's a very poor example. What changed BT wasn't the ownership of its shares (the least interesting thing about the company). Technology, in the form of digital communications, changed the way BT worked, and the services it was able to offer.

        Privatisation was originally intended to pay for digital exchanges, but it never did - the entire project was paid for out of BT revenue, and 60% of the country had digital exchanges before privatisation.

        Nearly 30 years later, parts of the resolutely-private-enterprise US are still waiting for digital exchanges.

        1. David Beck

          Poor example of poor example

          Not digital doesn't mean not electronic. Germany was still installing analogue (semiconductor based, not mechanical) exchanges into the 70's, as were some providers in the US. Will these be replaced by digital exchanges? Why when digital cable/fibre and cellular systems provide the same coverage and more services. Exchanges (point to point wiring of any sort) will go the way of the dinosaurs.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      What - like the Post Office?!?

      You must be a public sector apologist.

      Massive infrastructure works best when competent people are contracted to meet the requirement, and politicians aren't in the pockets of corporations.

      1. GilbertFilbert

        What - like the Post Office?!?

        "You must be a public sector apologist"

        No - like British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, British Aerospace, Virgin Media, Phorm, Enron, Goldmen Sacks etc etc etc - doubleplus fail.

        "politicians aren't in the pockets of corporations."

        In the good old days corrupt politicians used to take backhanders in brown envelopes, no its all in the open - "office expenses" is a good one, allegedly.

  2. David 39
    Thumb Up


    Make them dig, also while they're doing that, re-tarmac roads, etc. But the again maccy d's will soon go bust, well the UK chain anyway.... so erm...... WIN

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      What about...

      Enlarging railway tunnels so we can use continental loading gauge double deck trains?

  3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Put the unemployed to work... hang on

    Contradiction in terms.

    If this were to happen, they'd be trapped in the bad bit of the Prodigal Son story as well, and through no fault of their own, serving broadband to rich swine but presumably not allowed to have any themselves.

    What we need right now is another video-pornography-claimed-on-Parliamentary-expenses scandal - to remind overyone what broadband really is for.

  4. Andy Fletcher


    So all you really need knowledge wise to build a network is where the spades are kept eh? Why have I wasted my time learning all these acronyms and tedious stuff about protocols. Damn.

    1. Arnold Lieberman

      Um, eh?

      And there was me thinking the cables/pipes magically appeared in the ground as god intended.

      You mean someone has to put them there? Quick! Let's get some pasty-faced network engineers on the case!

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Missed the point

      Your job is still needed. The skills are still needed.

      But you can't do much (other than planning) without some actual cable (optical or electrical or other yet to be discovered/invented) in the ground.

      Digging a hole does not require networking knowledge, just a spade. Once they have laid conduits you're network hardware colleagues can simply come and blow the cables along...

      1. Oninoshiko

        says someone who's never ACTAULLY laid fiber.

        I would not want someone not properly trained running a trencher or a boaring machine. The company I work for has paid (properly trained) people to run both, for the purpose of running both fiber and copper.

        This is not a comment on intelligence either, it's a matter of training. I'm not qualified to operate that equipment either.

        1. Mark 65


          I agree that this would not be the appropriate use for the great State-supported unwashed but the man has a point. I believe that the longer term unemployed should be offered retraining where necessary but that they should also have to give something back. I see no benefit to our society of having these people sit around doing f*ck all for the money. If they volunteered, did community work or in the absence of willingness be made to perform tasks such as clearing roadside scrub, cleaning waterways etc - whatever needs doing - then at least the tax payer gets something back for their outlay. At present the street is far to one-way.

          1. Oninoshiko

            @Mark 65

            I don't disagree with you.

            I just am pointing out, the actual physical part (not just the networking part) of building a fiber network does require training. We are not talking about basic community service like collecting litter or scrubbing the work of vandals, we are talking about operating heavy machinery. I think that has been lost on many here.

      2. There's a bee in my bot net

        RE Missed the point

        I figured Andy Fletcher was being sarcastic...

        Digging trenches still requires someone (usually an engineer) to know where the existing services are so you don't accidentally dig up a 33kV mains cable or cut through some existing fibre or copper services and even that is no guarantee.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Surely if you have employed them to dig ditches then they are no longer unemployed ? If the job's there then offer it with reasonable rates of pay and conditions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Just wondering about the thought processes of the person who downvoted you!

      1. nyelvmark

        Just wondering about the thought processes of the person who downvoted you!

        Probably has a master's degree in economics.

    2. mhenriday

      Alas, I haven't enriched Mr Murdoch further

      by paying to penetrate his Times paywall and thus haven't read more of Mr Davis' article than the excerpts published in PCPro and the Reg, but I suggest that «reasonable rates of pay and conditions» are not quite what he had in mind. Unless, that is, one regards the dole as offering such. Mr Davis, I submit, wants unemployed members of the lower classes to work for next to nothing, which, aside from the immediate benefits of the work they perform, would also have the salutary effect of exerting downward pressure on wages for the great unwashed. «Hard Times», redux !...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Tory policy

        "Mr Davis, I submit, wants unemployed members of the lower classes to work for next to nothing,"

        Isnt that the normal tory policy?

        I mean, what is the point of being rich and landed, if you cant have serfs toiling the fields for you?

  6. GatesFanbois


    So what he seems to be saying is we should give the unemployed jobs?

    1. Thomas 4

      Now, now....

      That's just crazy talk.

    2. AdamWill

      yeah, odd.

      yeah, it seems massively obvious to me too. I mean, who does he think would be digging the holes if we _don't_ have some explicit plan to hire 'unemployed' people to do it? People who already have jobs? I mean...what? *head scratch*

    3. kissingthecarpet

      No, he doesn't mean that

      He means make them do it or they'll have their benefit cut. I'm sure he doesn't mean "use govt. money to train loads of the unemployed to be skilled workers", he means "use them as cheap labour", like a latter day Burma railway, the horrible old bastard.

    4. awomanfromVenus

      Don't be silly

      Nobody knows what amanfromMars ever means!

  7. Elmer Phud

    While you're there

    "Davis started with a clear outline of his views: "A workforce of the unemployed should build the superfast network we need so urgently"."

    "And after that I want them to wipe my bum"

    I'm not sure he realises that we don't have a huge number of intinerant Irish workers anymore to dig things up. Nowadays it's a few blokes and a JCB.

    Anyway, we only need the superfast network so HM.Gove can pwn us with and then there's not so many people to employ.

    They can then join the longterm unemployed who dug the trenches.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Transparent Advice to the Mad House of Westminster ....... and True too.

    "Davis started with a clear outline of his views: "A workforce of the unemployed should build the superfast network we need so urgently"."

    Doesn't the dunderhead realise that the cream of that crop are extremely busy ensuring that Cloud Control, which more than just the country and the likes of he, a maverick Dave knave, needs so urgently in a superfast network, is made easily available, albeit through astute and relatively anonymous proxies* ...... as was recently advised to the Cabinet Office in a submission planted into the Government works via the SCS2 Executive Director Digital ..... reference REC/10/22 portal.

    * Well, one cannot expect career politicians to be anywhere near up to speed on anything other than the latest evasion of questions techniques, can one ...... as is demonstrated so clearly by the pantomime of the staged PMQ presentation.

    One wonders what the hundreds of millions, which I believe might be even more than a billion, sequestered for cyber security, are being spent on/invested in.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    BT vs other telcos

    So are we really saying that the privatisation of BT is what is preventing the widespread roll out of superfast broadband?

    Or do they just want a monopoly?

    Maybe this might give people pause to think about the fact that nationalised national services are better than privatised ones....

    (I will now go and wait for my crappy train, with massive prices because although they are privatised there is no actual competition...)

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Madness ...right at the top of the political gravy train/politically incorrect food chain

      Nice succinct post, AC, which hits all the relevant points right on the head.

      One does wonder why the Government are proposing to sell back into the private sector, the banks that the public bought in the recent meltdown, and especially so if they are making millions and/or billions in profit again.

      What is the sound reasoning behind it? Do they not work for us or is it that they work just for themselves?

  10. Chris Miller

    Here's the 8th comment posted on The Times (by yours truly)

    Technically illiterate twaddle, as we've come to expect from our political leaders. There may be a case for ensuring that some minimum standard (say 2 Mbps) is universally available (though delivering even that to a croft in the Highlands and Islands wouldn't be cheap), but beyond that lie some serious issues.

    The first issue is a technical one; delivering high-speed (100Mbps) broadband requires a new (probably fibre optic) link to every property. In Japan, S Korea, and many European countries a substantial proportion of the population live in large multi-occupied apartment blocks. Connecting them to the Internet requires just one cable for hundreds of people. But in the UK the vast majority choose to live in our own homes each of which will require its own link, adding an order of magnitude to the cost.

    The second issue is economic - what is the benefit of high-speed broadband? At present, domestic use of the Internet is mainly for accessing web sites, email, and streaming or downloading files. For the first two of these, even 2Mbps is ample. The time taken for web pages to load is actually much more constrained by latency than line speed. I wouldn't pay 50% more for a 100Mbps connexion to replace my current 8Mbps, but I might if I could halve my latency (something Google appear to be working on). As for file streaming and downloading - if I need to download a new operating system image, which might be a few gigabytes in size, I start the process and then get on with something else. It's of little relevance to me whether it takes a few seconds, a few minutes or even an hour. The only time that line speed is important is when watching a streamed video feed and an HDTV channel only requires 8Mbps (that's the bit rate of the HD channels on Freeview+) - exactly how many HD channels do we expect to be watching simultaneously?

    So the "small pine furniture manufacturer in a remote village in my constituency, the young woman who designs and sells handbags, the wildlife photographer who sells pictures online" will see no benefit from high-speed broadband. I can see no prospect at all for the "between 280,000 and 600,000 new jobs" that Mr Davis foresees (except some short-term work for ditch diggers and cable splicers) . For 99% of people, having high-speed broadband is like owning a Ferrari in the middle of London. It may make the neighbours envious, but it won't get you to work any quicker.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Technically speaking you're right.

      But you miss a crucial point here. Mr Davis and his constituents need their pr0n as quickly as possible.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @Chris Miller

      You make a strong case for mediocrity.

      You should be a politician. Or a public sector worker.

    3. Just Thinking

      Streaming video

      If streaming HD ever became viable (as in capable of replacing broadcast TV for a significant proportion of households) then I can imagine a lot of households might want to stream several channels simultaneously. So 100MBps would be overkill, but 8Mbps not quite enough. But the point is, new cabling would be required even if speeds of 100Mbps were not on offer.

      For most other things, I agree with you. I rarely get more than 4Mbps, and to be honest it never causes me any real difficulty.

      1. Chris Miller

        @Just thinking

        I agree. But is it reasonable for the poorest taxpayer to subsidise someone who can afford 4 HDTVs?

        I'm not arguing for mediocrity. Perhaps one day we'll all have full size 3D streams to our personal holodecks which will require much greater bandwidth. If that day arrives, I'm sure the market will be happy to provide the necessary bandwidth. But it would be simply idiotic for government to chuck £5 billion of our money at a scheme to provide extra bandwidth for which there's no demonstrable need.

        If they want a job creation scheme for ditchdiggers, there's no shortage of potholes that need filling round our way!

        1. Mark 65

          @Chris Miller

          "But it would be simply idiotic for government to chuck £5 billion of our money at a scheme to provide extra bandwidth for which there's no demonstrable need."

          Think yourself lucky. In my country (Oz) they're chucking $43bn at it. Bigger country admittedly, but over 70% of the population live in only 10 cities/metropolitan areas. Plus instead of doing FTTC then upgrading to FTTP at a later date they want to do it all upfront and hence get gouged on the prices from contractors. By all accounts from Tasmania (the test case) it doesn't seem to be working that well.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      latency? who cares... what about about upload speed?

      "oh sorry your upload took 16 hours to complete but at least it started within 4 milliseconds of you hitting the upload button"

      If your home or business has never had a need to upload large files then I can't imagine what you do all day that qualifies you to work in IT.

    5. Morat

      You missed the point

      The problem is not getting people from 8Mb to 100Mb it is getting people from dial up or a flakey 0.5Mb on ADSL up to something worthwhile (like 2Mb or 8Mb). Your example of a remote croft is valid, but far from representative. There are many people in rural areas - but those rural areas are market towns, large villages or even suburbs or industrial parks on the outside of major cities who do not have access to reliable internet connections.

      More services are going online, and websites are becoming more bandwidth hungry. People wihtout good connections are getting left behind.

      You may not be aware of the £400m that the gov has pledged to helping with rural broadband throught BDUK. I would support any initiative that allows us to get more network for this money by employing low skilled people to do the shovel work which will be required to get fibre around the country.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      High speed vs Chris Miller

      "So the "small pine furniture manufacturer in a remote village in my constituency, the young woman who designs and sells handbags, the wildlife photographer who sells pictures online" will see no benefit from high-speed broadband."

      Except they will.

      Bigger bandwidth means people use the internet for more and more things, from more and more devices. In a 2 adult, 2 kid family, there can be dozens of devices all trying to access the internet for updates, for purchases etc.

      Now you may not see any one of these as essential - and they arent - but the reality is that it is this constant-on which makes people more and more comfortable using the internet. In the days of 28.8 dial up people didnt spent time browsing shopping sites, people didnt want to look at pictures of goods before they bought them, people didnt want to interact to anywhere near the same level that they do now.

      But with broadband on everything from the TV to the Phone, people *can* look at and buy a handbag from a designer half way around the world because they *can* use the bandwidth to view a 3d model of the bag and zoom in to see intricate detail without dying of old age. People can work from home, increasing the market of people who can do different jobs but this relies fast connections.

      It is almost impossible to do things off-line now, even buying tickets to see Swansea FC is better done via a FAST internet connection.

      How people survive with 2Mbps connections is beyond me. I really hope you were only trolling the Times.

      1. Chris Miller

        @AC 10:55

        You were almost beginning to make sense and then blew it with your last paragraph. There are undoubtedly some benefits from a faster Internet connection, but it's unlikely you'll notice any difference in the time taken to load an HTML page in moving from 2Mbps to 8Mbps. Latency (and the ability of the web server to deliver data) are more likely to be limiting factors.

        I realise that many Reg readers may not wish to pay the Murdoch shilling for access to the full Times article, but David Davis wants to spend £5 billion providing 100Mbps access to every household in the UK. If you think that's a sensible economic decision, I have some magic beans that I'm sure you'd like to buy.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          "There are undoubtedly some benefits from a faster Internet connection, but it's unlikely you'll notice any difference in the time taken to load an HTML page in moving from 2Mbps to 8Mbps. "

          Who said anything about loading a single HTML page? You say I was almost beginning to make sense but it seems you didnt read anything.

          In the house, I have iPods downloading updates, I have news feeds downloading video and people shopping where they are inspecting flash-based high res 3d effect photographs of the items they want. I frequently have four people online simultaneously.

          This is what drives the growth of the internet. It has long since moved on from a lone person visiting various plain old HTML pages to read about UFOs or what the latest developments in the standard model are.

          Even the government is driving for us to access all our services online - which will, in turn, add to the burden on the pipe to the house.

          I will reiterate, just in case you missed it, the point isnt that each page will be faster or slower, its that with fast connections, people can do more online, so people DO more online.

          1. Chris Miller


            So you're all accessing web pages continuously then? Most people take the occasional break to read what they're loading, but you're probably able to ingest the data content at the speed of light. And if your occasional downloads are interfering with this, there's something wrong with your prioritisation. I've yet to see a single rational argument as to why I might need to subsidise 100Mbps to every home*.

            Tell you what, take some time out from your 4 people browsing 24x7 and learn how IP protocols work, then come back and post something intelligent.

            * NB "South Korea has this, so I want one" doesn't count for this purpose.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              @Chris Miller

              Just because you have a complete lack of imagination as to what to do with a fat internet pipe doesn't mean everyone is so limited in their thinking.

              Have you not heard the expression (regarding road infrastructure) "build it and they will come".

              I imagine you are one of those people who only runs one application at a time, has only one web page open in your internet explorer browser, and rarely exceeds 50 MB downloads in a month. What a mediocre vision that is.

              Some people actually USE the internet you know.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Thumb Down

              Chris Miller vs 21st Century Internet

              "So you're all accessing web pages continuously then?"

              There is still more to the internet than HTML.

              Three people in the house watching streaming video while one other is doing some online gaming. While this is going on various bits of hardware are connecting to the internet and updating their software / databases etc. God forbid someone wanting to use VoIP at the same time. And when we all move to SaaS, fat pipes will be essential.

              You can keep rubbishing the idea that any household will have more than one person accessing a single 15kb HTML page at any given time. I have no problem with that. You are welcome to keep your 14.4 dial up modem connection.

              The reality is that every time we have had the opportunity to get faster and cheaper access, people have done more on the web. This "more" has resulting in greater economic benefits to the country as a whole. Shops sell more online, more services are purchased etc.

              There will always be luddites who cant see what benefit there is in any thing improving, but the rest of us stopped using fax modems quite some time ago.

  11. Gordon861


    The BT spokeswoman said: "Building a superfast broadband network is a complex business involving highly skilled staff. We're currently passing 80,000 premises a week." She added that by 2012, superfast connections in the UK would exceed those in France, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.

    Yes but how many of the population in these countries are also still stuck at 1Mb Broadband. We need to raise the general standard of broadband all over the UK not just fast get even faster and the slow just keep the same. Although it'll go nicely with the rich getting richer in the UK right now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Title? What's one of them then...?

      "We're currently passing 80,000 premises a week"

      Literally passing them. Passing them by, or passing them a half arsed, antiquated solution and them charging through the nose for it.

    2. nyelvmark

      I feel the need...

      Gordon861 wrote:

      >Yes but how many of the population in these countries are also still stuck at 1Mb Broadband. We need to raise the general standard of broadband all over the UK not just fast get even faster and the slow just keep the same. Although it'll go nicely with the rich getting richer in the UK right now.

      Indeed. The world is gradually waking up to the incontovertible principle that high-speed internet access is a basic human right.

      Ferraris, too. Why the fuck is it that only rich bastards are allowed to own them? When I'm king of the world, everyone will have a Ferrari, and there will be roads absolutely EVERYWHERE, with no speed limits.

      The only reason this doesn't happen right now is that the rich bastards are screwing us.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    So BT wines like sour grapes...

    They sat on their fat protuberances for the last 20 years and did SFA regarding broadband, took all the profits from ISDN -> DSL and invested NOTHING back into the country.

    Hmm, let's see if history repeats itself. Acquire Post Office Telecom network for free, check. Suck every last £ from rate payers AND taxpayers for 20 + years, check. Drain all remaining fluids from customers for poor broadband performance whilst others build superfast networks, check.

    Complaints to Ofcom on a fibre connector please!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    It's an old one....

    How to confuse a workshy chav on a enforced cable-laying scheme, line four shovels up and tell to take his Pick!

    No? Suit yourselves!

  14. MJI Silver badge

    David Davies & Times

    Sorry but so few readers - what is the point.

    Try a well read outlet, I don't know, like the BBC?

    These "death of web site" walls are a joke!

    At least I found it here on the register

    1. Tom 38


      I read it this lunch time on my Times iPad app.

      Moderatrix: Is there not some 'smug git' icon I can use for this post?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        That would be

        'smug' with a silent 'S' ?

    2. nyelvmark


      I was reading the BBC live football coverage earlier tonight, and I noticed one tackle decribed as "viscous".

      Enough said?

      1. Allan George Dyer

        The commentator...

        was obviously watching the slow-motion replay.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Just what we need - forced labour!

    I think that extremists of all colours eventually come to this one; what to do with all the useless/inconvenient people in the country? But how do you persuade people to work for unemployment benefits? Obviously you have to make not working for benefits less pleasant; e.g. by not paying benefits if you don't work. This gives the unemployed a simple choice: work, starve or steal. So it's best to make sure you have firm control of the unemployed, perhaps by concentrating them into groups where they can be held securely whilst they aren't digging ditches.

    It's a great idea to put them to some kind of useful infrastructure work, and even better if it thins out the numbers. Those that survive the uber-broadband project can be murdered and disposed of in incinerators - presumably operated by unemployed BT engineers.

    I'm not sure how forced labour fits in with David Davis' "erosion of civil liberties" stance though? Maybe civil liberties only apply to people with jobs?

    1. John Murgatroyd


      Civil liberties only apply to people with money ?

  16. Gav


    What absolute tommy-rot! What we need is another good war, get these idle johnnys signed up, into uniform and digging trenches across Europe. Make men of them and get them use to the feel of a spade in their hands.

    Then the ones that make it back to Blighty will be laying pipes for this inter-network what-not like billy-o!

    Frankly I'm disgusted that a former Tory minister failed to jump at this obvious chance to give the Bosh another good hiding. Gad, he was suggesting we take the lead from countries that don't appear on any map of the Empire!

    No wonder he was put out of office. We need chaps with greater foresight and 21st century thinking.

  17. Tom 15

    I personally...

    I personally don't see the issue with requiring the unemployed to do work in order to claim benefits. Gives them good skills, references, motivation, etc.

    And doing just that is one of the coalitions policies to be brought in soon. We could make BT pay a small amount for them and therefore cover a small part of their benefits?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The question is...

      ...*whose* jobs they are going to do. Follow your logic to its ultimate conclusion and the entire workforce ends up working for the state on benefits. On the plus side our exports should be competitive, but domestic consumption will definitely be down!

    2. nyelvmark
      Thumb Down


      So what about unemployed people with skills?

      Have you tried getting a job filling shelves at Asda with a degree in electronic systems design and a 30-year history in electronic manufacturing and design?

      Trust me, I have - they don't want to know.

      Rethink your stereotype of unemployed people - most of them don't fit it.

    3. John Murgatroyd

      What skill

      is there in digging a trench ?

      Why BT ?

      There are loads of other telcos' out there.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        So many things wrong

        Look, despite what you think, trenching a cable duct is not quite as straightforward as getting a couple of yokels, giving them a spade each, telling them you want a cable between A and B and then letting them loose!

        There is heavy machinery involved, planning a route to avoid both existing infrastructure (you know they hav gas, elctric, water and sewage services in the same place you want to put you trench, often with wildly inaccurate maps of where the existing services are!) and disruption to traffic and homeowners / pedestrians.

        The reason the "Telco's" (Essentially BT and Virgin) are not busily digging up the country and laying loads of new fibre is because they 1. Don't have the money to and 2. because they dont need to. The "profitable" resedential areas are already within reach of a fibre hub so despite all the claims of Superfast "infiniti" or Fibre optic broadband most "Superfast subscribers" are still on a copper (coax or copper cable) last mile and then connect to a Fibre hub rather than going back to an exchange with a bit of wet string!

    4. Burch

      Perhaps you should have paid attention.. your economics classes. You'll be doing your job for benefits next. You however will deserve it.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...we're in the Minority here! lol

  18. Richard Jukes


    I believe the general thrust of his argument is that the unemployed scroungers should be doing something, hell I'd be happy to see half of them dig a hole and the other half fill it in. I dont particulary care what they do providing they a) Have to get up at 6:30 b) Have to work for their money and c) Have to suffer the same shit, day in, day out like the rest of us.

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Paris Hilton

      Someones been reading the Daily Mail

      These scroungers you are on about receive job seekers allowance and they already have "to work for their money" - its called job hunting. If they don't do it they loose their benefits. I think you are getting "unfit for work" and "lazy" mixed up again. Yes there will be some scroungers but don't kid yourself that most benefit recipients are out there living a luxury lifestyle on your tax money cos they aint.

      Paris, 'cus she can scrounge off me any time she likes!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    is it such a bad idea?

    I've been unemployed for nearly 11 months, the job centre have already told me about this work scheme, at least that it will exist, as that's all they know at this point. What sort of work it will be I don't know.

    Personally I'd be glad of some kind of work.. particularly if I get paid a decent live-off-able amount for it, although it would have to be flexible, if it was 9-5 all week there'd be no time to look for real employment. I'd happily work say.. Friday through Monday as you can't do much job hunting over the weekend.

    I'm a recent graduate stuck between a rock and a hard place, can't find the right grad job.. or any for that matter, can't find any really-temp-not-just-calling-it-temp-so-we-can-fire-slackers work, no one will employ me for anything other than what I have a degree in (mechanical engineering).

    1. Chris 15

      You're doing it a bit wrong i feel.

      If you're just trying to get a temp job or any job thats not related to your field of expertise then dont tell them about your field of expertise :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        oh yea y ddnt i think ov dat

        and tell them I spent three years doing what exactly?

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      It's a terrible idea

      Firstly, digging holes and laying cable requires a little bit more than a pick and shovel. By failing to match skills to requirements you may just end up paying people to stand around rather than do anything as happened with Bitch's YTS programme. It's populist cock rot that the unemployed can be plugged into holes in the employment market. If you have a mismatch either you have to train/conditions your potential workers to do the jobs required or find markets where you can sell their skill-sets. As neither of those is easy, appealing to false prejudice about people not getting "something for nothing" can be very attractive.

      Secondly, it is a direct intervention in the labour market. If you want to get people into work by this kind of action it is better to create the demand for labour indirectly by putting the work out to tender. Otherwise you invite abuse and corruption: companies can sack existing workers knowing that they can get the government to pay for them and as long as someone else is paying why stick with just one?

      There are arguments for a secondary labour market - state sponsored - but this is usually for services that cannot be provided otherwise. Patently not the case here.

      Thirdly, it is also an intervention in the liberalised and privatised telecommunications market: who is going to own the cable? If the demand for broadband is really there then the market should invest to meet it and set prices accordingly. If things aren't happening fast enough then encourage investment through regulation: e.g. whichever company does the investment is able to set a rent above the current price, as is currently the case with Deutsch Telekom's fibre to the home project. Or build the infrastructure yourself and rent it to the companies as is the case in Stockholm, I believe and with some railway networks. Lots of arguments in favour of this as the return on investment of infrastructure often takes too long to make it worthwhile arranging the funding.

      Fourthly, is the need really so great? I have yet to see many convincing reports about the speed of internet access having a significant effect on GDP. Internet access itself, yes and mobile internet as well but neither require lots of bandwidth to function as enablers. Pound for pound you generally get a better return from education or reducing traffic problems (accidents, time lost to travel, etc.)

    3. kissingthecarpet
      Big Brother

      You're joking, surely

      Decent live-off-able amount? Never going to happen

      No scheme offered to the unemployed ever pays any money, apart from maybe an extra tenner p.w. & travel exes.

      I was signing on throughout the Thatch/Major era(by choice of course) & at no time was I offered anything much, except when they let me pretend I was starting a business for 2 years & still paid me the dole plus a score on each giro - the Tories'd do anything to make the figures look better. It was either that or go on the sick. That's why they think there's so many scroungers on the sick - they spent years letting anyone on it to get the dole numbers down.

      I know 3 who went that route. The irony is that although they weren't sick when they started, they really are now. One has a hopeless valium, smack & crack habit & another is in rehab, trying to get off methadone & 5+ litres of 9% lager a day. They're both totally unemployable.

      1. nyelvmark


        I've known dozens of people of this sort, but it really has no relevance to the real job market. All they're doing is exploiting the system to gain slightly higher benefits than they would get by pretending to be looking for work. They also find life a bit easier in that they're not forced to attend interviews for jobs which they know they won't get.

        Nobody in Britain starves because of intentional government policy. This is a principle of modern enlightened society. You may disagree with this, but the politicians believe that's what people want - it doesn't matter how stupid, handicapped, lazy or ignorant you are, the government will guarantee that you dont don't die from lack of essentials.

        And if I give you the job of deciding who is a scrounger, and who is a genuine job-seeker, which criteria will you use? You won't be able to interview every claimant personally, so you'll need to formulate rules which your subordinates can use.

        Not so simple, is it?

    4. John Murgatroyd


      scheme they are thinking about is the one where you work 9-5, 5 days a week, and get paid your benefit...

      It used to be £64.00/week....and you get to have the pee taken out of you by the others on £400.00/week.

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Once they have the shovels

    I know where there is a couple of hundred years supply of coal - just waiting to be dug out of the ground.

    We can put the unemployed onto digging it and save our dependency on Russia for energy - another example of tory forward thinking !

  21. Chad H.

    Sounds more North Korean

    Forced hard labour for private gain... Is this the UK or DPRK?

    I agree with the unemployed giving something back, but giving BT free labour is not on.

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    why dont we

    use all the unemployed graduates the beeb was whinging about .

    Not only do we get all our tranches dug and cables laid, but they can rig up the netword too, all the time using their people to people skills to sell the cable system to the people whose front gardens they are digging up



    No nurse I'm not an MP I dont need medicatingggg.g.......

  23. Glenn Amspaugh

    Problems solving problems

    Can't this be funded under some kind of security mandate? They could claim the new networking for those interactive tv's with cameras so they watch folks and yell at them to exercise, like in that old Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin.

  24. Graham Marsden

    Which part of...

    "Building a superfast rural broadband network is largely low-skill" didn't you understand?

    Job Centre Drone: So, what qualifications do you have?

    Unemployed geek: Well, I can program in Java, C++, Ruby, Python...

    Job Centre Drone: Excellent, we have a perfect job for you, digging trenches for Broadband Cables!

  25. David Barr
    Thumb Up

    Sounds Good

    Being productive would help their self esteem. It's a worthwhile task and it'd give the unemployed a chance to experience the working week - which really isn't as bad as people make out.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its nothing to do with being workshy.

    "DD ... used this morning's Times to call for BT to raise an army of unemployed people to make a contribution to the society that is currently subsidising them (at massive expense), by helping to build the UK's next generation broadband network."

    There, fixed it for you.

    And that's a problem because?

  27. Da Weezil


    Am I alone in seeing hypocrisy in the words of a politician in expecting people to dig ditches for less than a decent days pay and conditions while politicians whine about how hard done by they are and how their already generous allowances and expenses are not enough?

    If this is such a great idea, how about the government form a company to lay a fibre network and lease out the bandwidth on a level basis - thus providing proper and permanent jobs for some of the unemployed - many of whom are unemployed because of the ineptitude (some may word it more strongly) of generations of our political servants.

    Any parts of the UK on less than 10 megs should see greatly reduced pricing to reflect the bargain basement speed.

  28. heyrick Silver badge

    If it is good enough to do, it is something worth being paid for.wE

    Take the unemployed masses, give them a shovel, and a payslip...

    ...if you aren't prepared to offer a real job, I'd seriously question your motives.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To damn right

    Ive been saying this for years, you want benifits? well you can work for them like the rest of us do, you might learn a thing or two which you could put to good use else where, it would also show potential employers that your not completely stupid. A small amount of investment in training will be more than made up by the work thats produced, and who knows, they the trainees could become the trainers which could be applied to all sorts of jobs.

    If youve worked all your life and you have contributed taxes than thats fine, if your physically not capable of working and there is litterally nothing you can do, ie someone that has visual/audio/vocal impaired and are also a quadriplegic then that too is fine, everyone else that can do some degree of work should be made to do it if they want state benifits.

    Years ago we had the work houses, the concept was good, the implementation was terrible, something similar would help the country no end, and if all else fails? wheres Australia again? ok ok just joking on that last part before i get slated, but i do seriously think we need to address the situation of benifits and i really do think that something like this idea would be good for everyone.

    1. The Alpha Klutz

      I wonder what job you do

      that's so damn important to the success of the country?

      I bet if we really get down to brass tacks we would find that you and I, for all the time we spend at work, are as inconsequential as anyone else.

      As a nice little thought experiment; if you died, would one of those dole scroungers you hold in contempt not take your place? The vacancy won't be filled by someone who already has a job now will it?

      I get pretty tired of people who are in employment pretty much by accident of birth and chronology, complaining about the people who don't have a job through accident of birth and chronology. It's not like anybody on this earth grew up aspiring to be indentured.

      I don't recall anybody in my primary school ever saying "when I grow up I want to be looked down on as the scum of society".

      I'm not saying that the government should give us all cushy jobs on the space station; but people can reasonably expect a roof over their head and some shit to eat. I'd rather pay the money than have these people breaking into my house every day out of sheer desperation.

      1. The Alpha Klutz

        "The vacancy won't be filled by someone who already has a job now will it?"

        Or at least, if it is, then the person who swapped jobs to gain your job will in turn leave a vacancy and eventually a vacancy must trickle down to the jobless. At some point you are forced to give them a step up onto the employment ladder.

        You can hardly blame them for not having a job if that ladder is being actively vandalised and mutilated.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and some more...

        I help generate wealth for the country, like pretty much everyone else in the private sector, a vast chunk of the public sector supports everyone who lives here, the people who CHOOSE not to work do nothing except take money out of the tax paying public (and bank loans as this country is in so much debt) im in employment by accident? no i fell out of school with nothing and worked my way up from the bottom over several different companies, tell me if everyone wants to work then why is it that there are 62 cleaning jobs in my town with unemployment so high? are they all not able to work? or are SOME of them not willing to work? tell me, id love to know

        course, if some of them are unwilling to work then it MUST be unique to my area

        look, ill say it again ( i started from the bottom of this thread) people who are unable to work, people who have worked but have fallen out of work for whatever the reason are all in my opinion perfectly intitled to get benifits without exception, my issue is there are people who do not work and i think, going back to the article, they should be made to work a few hours a week.

        1. The Alpha Klutz

          "there are 62 cleaning jobs in my town"

          The thought crosses my mind that 62 is a low number not a high one.

          If there are only 62 jobs going in your town, how could you possibly expect unemployment not to be a big problem?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            oh good god, no wonder this country is screwed

            62 CLEANING jobs in 1 town, on one of the previous posts i also mentioned that it was from ONE website. what i did not mention is that all those jobs are over 2 weeks old some considerably longer

            it took me no more than 10 seconds to find them, but the argument stands, why are they not taken if unemployment is so high? is it because everyone who is unemployed is so because they are unable to work or is it because SOME of them are unwilling to work

            come on, no one has answered this yet, could it be that perhaps, just maybe, SOME of the people choose not to work? and that these few should be forced in to working?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Whether either country depended on an army of under-employed, tracksuit-clad non-network engineers armed with spades is not clear."

    More or less, in Japan at least, there wages are incredibly low, and their hours are long and they normally work 6 days a week. Except they wear nice looking uniforms with hard hats and take pride in their work.

  31. Haku

    Build a better information superhighway?

    Can you get them to fix the normal highways first? I'm fed up of all the bloody potholes and crumbling roads, it's getting more and more dangerous to be a cyclist.

  32. andy, bacup

    Perhaps people don't want to live on state benefits?

    Do you? If you ever grow up you might realise you aren't anything special.

    There was no 'benefits culture' before the 1980s. Do you really believe millions of people suddenly lost the will to work just because they saw Mrs Thatcher on TV? Perhaps mass unemployment has something to do with economic conditions in the real world?

    If you've worked all your life, you've presumably been paid all you were owed.

  33. James 51
    Jobs Horns


    I can't figure out if you're a troll or not. On the off chance that you're not I have just one question. If you give an unemployed person a shovel and tell them to dig will you also give them a payslip? Jobseekers already places a duty on claimants to look for work. Presumably you'd wave this requirement and give them at least the minimum wage as you can't ask someone to do a days work for less than a days pay. The amount this cost would be huge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Jobseekers do requirer you to look for work, it does not requirer you to actually work.

      Minimum wage? why? There are jobs out there that pay significantly less than the minumum wage because the company claims to give them the remainder of there wage as "live costs"

      Im quite sure if you add up all the benifits that a person recieves and doesnt work, including council tax and rent discounts, add that to their weekly jobseekers and they will be on something akin to the minimum wage, and even if its not, why should we pay for someone not to work? if they cant than thats different, but where i live theres a lot of people claiming and doing bugger all except getting in to fights in the streets and breaking things, costing us more money, im not saying have them working 48 hour weeks in terrible conditions, im talking a fair system of part time work in exchage for their benifits.

      Its simple, if you make people that can work earn their benifits it will help the country because we are getting work done for effectively very little, if that money is low then it will encurrage them to get something better, ive worked my arse off since i was a teenager and i dont want to see my taxes wasted on people that dont give a damn about them selves, anything or anyone around them

      1. Elmer Phud


        "ive worked my arse off since i was a teenager and i dont want to see my taxes wasted on people that dont give a damn about them selves, anything or anyone around them"

        Never been unemployed, never been through the farce called 'Jobseeker' where there are none and now self-righteously condemning those who have had no choice and can't get a job.

        I worked my arse off for may years, now jobless and - through the way these bastards manipulate things - also unable to get any benefit at all.

        Come back when you have some experience, then you might have a vaild comment. Until then get back under the bridge. You might have work experience but none at al outside your cosy little shell.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          i just did a search for cleaners in my local town, 62 to be exact, from just one web site so why are people not working in them? because many who can work choose not to.

          Now dont get me wrong, i do understand, i fell out of school with nothing, i didnt want benifits, i wanted to work and worked my arse off to get up the ladder starting out on work experience andmoving up, i take on work experience kids now to help get people in to work, many of those are great and will go far, some are only doing it to get their money, they dont want to work, they have no ambition, they are doing it to get benifits, end of story.

          Some people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, but if you have worked and for whatever reason you cant work then that is what the benifits system is for, im not targeting you, im saying all those people out there that are quite happy to milk the system and not work at all even though they can should be forced to work to one degree or another depending on there physical abilities

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Benefits System


            "Some people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, but if you have worked and for whatever reason you cant work then that is what the benifits system is for, im not targeting you, im saying all those people out there that are quite happy to milk the system and not work at all even though they can should be forced to work to one degree or another depending on there physical abilities"

            And how do you propose to determine who is milking the system and who isnt?

            Despite what the tabloids may scream, there are more people genuinely claiming benefits than "milking the system."

            In my case, because I was able to hold off being forced into a minimum wage job which would have deskilled me, I managed to get back into professional work after a MERE six months. During this six months, however, I lost pretty much everything and had to borrow thousands of friends and family to simply stay afloat. If it had taken me a couple of weeks longer then I would have gone under totally.

            Now, rather than being a minimum wage earner, struggling to survive, I am back into the high income tax bracket helping the economy keep moving.

            This is, from the nations point of view, a good thing. If I had been forced to become a cleaner then the chances of ever getting back into a decent paid job would have been non-existent.

            Is that really what you want for society? As soon as someone's life stumbles, its game over for them? What a caring nation we have become.

            BTW - I have just done a quick search and in my town there are 15,300 people unemployed but there are only 24 cleaning jobs. What do you suggest the other 15,276 people do? The total number of jobs on offer - including ones which need specialised skills - is 94. The numbers do not add up. When you consider that cleaning jobs are often transitory with very high turnover, it looks even worse.

      2. Burch


        Loves your type. The I'm all right Jack brigade, however slightly too dim to realise they're also getting shafted. High unemployment is essential to Thatcherite economics. It isn't an accident you know? It's a policy. Keeps wages low and the employed nervous. Handily enough this makes the extremely wealthy even better off. Oh, that's happening already. By their own standards this government is extremely successful.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          oh dear

          no really, the dim ones here are those that dont understand that a public sector doesnt generate money, it recycles it, only some gets lost along the way in terms of saves etc

          we need to bring money in to the country which is largely done by exports to other countries, the govenment doesnt export much now does it and if the private sector is shrinking then its not going to bring in much either

          but thats another argument, the simple fact is that we are spending money on SOME people who choose not to work, so why not make them work for it?

          Tell me that isnt true, tell me that everyone out of work cant work, tell me that the 62 cleaning jobs in my local town are not filled because everyone is unable to work?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Dear Dazzza

            I honestly hope you never have to suffer the nightmare that is being unemployed.

            Do you believe that cleaning jobs are so menial and trivial that anyone can do them and anyone made unemployed should be forced to do menial labour no matter what their previous skill sets were?

            There is so much fail here, I am not sure where to start. There should be a crying softly in despair icon on El Reg.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              the cleaning job was just one i selected from the wee drop down list, it happened to be just at the bottom of the viewable list, ill try some other ones if you want, im in no way discrediting cleaners at all, infact i hold them in higher regard then many of the higher earners out there, but thats a different conversation

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            In my experience people who can't be told anything are the ones who uncritically believe what they read in newspapers (it's what's called a paradox.) So I'm probably wasting my time here, even if you aren't a troll. Still, here goes:

            If you were in a supermarket, innocently stocking up on frozen pizza, and the security staff decided that somebody was definitely shoplifting, but they didn't know who it was, would you be happy to be sentenced to an open-ended Community Service punishment because you were there at the same time? (Clue: only an idiot would answer "Yes" to that.)

            62 cleaning jobs in ONE town? Wow! Could you tell us how many hours a week that comes to? Would I be right in thinking something like 620? That is equivalent to 18 full time jobs. Except that it isn't. Nobody who needs a job can afford to work part time for a little more than the minimum wage. They would have to be looking at something like £20 an hour. If cleaning paid that, there would be a stampede into it from other professions.

            If you choose to hold your breath until that happens, I, for one, will applaud your decision!

      3. Anonymous Coward


        "Im quite sure if you add up all the benifits that a person recieves and doesnt work, including council tax and rent discounts, add that to their weekly jobseekers and they will be on something akin to the minimum wage, and even if its not, why should we pay for someone not to work?"

        You arent paying people "not to work" - the money is provided by the state to ensure a minimum standard of living (which is way below what is acceptable for most people) for those who for whatever reason are unable to find work.

        Part time work in exchange for benefits is not a fair system - it drives down the salaries of people who have actual jobs because all of a sudden there is a workforce full of people who are being forced to labour for £64 a week. Surprisingly we have quite high unemployment at the moment, not because people would rather survive on not quite enough money to buy food but because the jobs are not there.

        You may be drawing upon the limited experience you have of the unemployed who you see as "doing nothing but getting into fights" but this is not indicative of the wider population.

        Now, interestingly, you see unemployment as this easy life where people get loads of money and dont have to work for it but instead you have toiled hard, taken advantage of situations that have been available to you and worked all your life. Why is that?

        If it is so easy living on the dole, why dont you do it?

        Having worked for *most* of my adult life, I can safely say that the time I have spent unemployed was amongst the most stressful and pressured periods I ever encountered to the point at which I do my utmost to make sure it never happens again. Trying to survive for three months on JSA was almost impossible and destroyed my family to the extent that TWO years of constant work later and I have not yet fully bounced back.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          The rich get rich, the poor get poorer

          That's how it goes.

          Everybody knows.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          yes but

          .... thats the difference, you and i want to work, we want to do things to make our/others lives better.

          "for those who for whatever reason are unable to find work."

          for whatever reason being the point of my argument, the reason is some choose not too

          as i just posted, in my town there are 62 cleaning jobs vacant, why is that if unemployment is so high?

          your point of driving down wages of othes is a vaild point, but the work we are talking about here is work that isnt going to get done anyway, no ones jobs would be at stake because no one is working on it, how much better could things be in towns and citys if people who couldnt find private sector work had to work there.

          This whole thing is apart of a larger problem with our country and that is how its run and has been run since the First world war and also how generation after generation has come to rely on the state

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The devils in the detail.

    Sounds like standard Keynesian economics to me - according to the economist J.M. Keynes when the economy is tanking , governments should spend money on infrastructure projects to kick start things.

    David Davies is actually being a "wet" - a Thatcherite tory would be preaching from the book of Milton Friedman who espouses that the free market should be left to sort it out (i.e leave the unemployed to starve so that they are forced to find a job at any price)

    I don't know how many of the readers of El Reg saw the recent BBC4 documentary about the national grid, but a large chunk of that was built during the 30's depression, and in the states FDR's new deal spent large amounts of money on public works projects to kick start the US economy. The idea being that the projects allow you to get large numbers of people working relatively quickly , they can pick up skills , and the country ends up with something better than people paid to watch Jeremy Kyle.

  35. Trev 2

    Pick and shovel - not in Cumbria

    Not sure exactly what this MP has been smoking, but BT (or company working for them) actually laid a very long fat pipe through Cumbria a couple of years ago - not sure if we ever got any benefit mind you.

    However, despite the number of green fields and such, they laid most of it along the A6 digging said road up in a long and not very straight route. I really wouldn't want to put anyone who's not had the proper training behind the machine they were using as it looked pretty dangerous, especially on the bit where they were feet from a 100 foot drop!

    So unfortunately doubt this pick and shovel plan will exactly work unless you include pickaxes and then that's going to take a very, very long time.

    If he thinks Cumbria is hard, imagine what happens when you hit the granite rock in Scotland!

  36. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    And a solution to the traffic problem

    There was some other politician that forced all the unemployed to build lots of those newly invented fast express roads. He thought it was a good way to regenerate a f***ed country with a worthless currency.

    Shouty little guy with a mustache.

    Wonder whatever happened to him ?

  37. Bram

    unpaid, unemployed

    The problem is what would get these companies hiring if they can get free labour??? Why use JCBs, skilled/fully trained workers when you can just used unemployed and the next logical step would be to use prisoners then the average person would not be able to get a job or wouild have to work for next to nothing to get work.

    Invest the money in broadband country wide and force teh companies to hire people to do the job rather than taking the money and running

  38. Anonymous Coward

    and after 349 years

    nothing has changed at all :(

  39. Ray 8


    Knowing BT they will use the Intra-Company Visa system to bring in "staff" from a non-EU country where staffing costs are much less

    1. Elmer Phud


      Sometime back there were BT engineers in London doing nothing following the big 'reshuffle' so to improve matters they brought in BT engineers from Wales to do exchange upgrades.

      London wages, paid accommodation and food, free weekend travel to go home (overtime included), overtime pay, allowance for working away from home and others. We were not bitter at the imported labour but the way that BT had decided to try and cause trouble between workers. Management were even telling the Welsh guys to not talk to us locals.

      The thin end of the wedge felt rather uncomfortable.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    This title is unemployed

    Get them to dig a ditch from Lands End to John O'Groats.

    The have them fill it in again.

    About as pointless as the original suggestion.

  41. Mickey Finn

    Fat pipes for fat communications between fat computers...

    Hows about some techies putting their heads together and finding out how to build computers and linkages that didn't contain and transact so much bloated data...???

    The big IT companies just seem to have conveniently forgotten about this objective, perhaps because they persist in adding more and more layers to 40 year old outdated concepts.

    Given that scenario, we would be able to worry less about the scammers in both the criminal and government underworlds that want to rob us of our hard won cash and freedoms. We would be able to communicate privately and down thinner, pre-existing pipes.... You know, the way we used to!

    David Davis is 37.

  42. JaitcH

    Another UK politician reveals how stupid they can be

    Laying cables today often involves ploughs and pigs.

    Ploughs, designed for cable laying, can dispense armoured cable straight off a reel to a depth of about 1.5 metres, dependent upon the type of soil or the lack of it.

    Pneumatic 'pigs' are devices shaped like a torpedo, in which a reciprocating weight, driven by compressed air, that can make holes under lawns and roadways in minutes. Think of it like a piston from car that is designed to strike the top of the cylinder, and kinetic energy drives the 'pig' forward. Some are 'steerable' within limits.

    The problem has been, in the past, that the former BT entity always went the 'gold' route with cable conduits being installed (remember those 4 and 6 hole pipes?) and their conformity tested by dragging a test piece through them to ensure it didn't get stuck.

    Canada has had thousands of kilometres of all sorts of cables laid by ploughs. Even undersea cables are ploughed in to prevent damage from fishing tackle.

    The 'drops' to premises can be pre-manufactured so field work is minimised and limited to feeder connections in street distribution boxes.

    Maybe the unemployed Davis has in mind can be used to make tea or coffee or roll the spools of cables around. Certainly they are not need for digging holes.

  43. some vaguely opinionated bloke

    The BT spokeswoman said...

    "We're currently passing 80,000 premises a week"

    I bet that'd make your eyes water...

  44. jaduncan

    @Darren Tuffs

    "you want benifits? well you can work for them like the rest of us do, you might learn a thing or two which you could put to good use else where, it would also show potential employers that your not completely stupid."

    The quality of English here is, frankly, deliciously ironic.

  45. Clive Higgins

    Could I Add Some rational Thoughts please

    Sorry guys but you are letting your political positions cloud your judgement, for all his faults, David Davis is trying to promote a sensible discussion. Trying to shout him down from your positions of self interest is not going to achieve anything.

    The UK has an antiquated, predominantly copper based, telecommunications network. This is not the fault of the current Government, nor can the blame be laid at the feet of any particular Government in the last 50 years. Like the UK's drainage system, what little we have is derived in concept from the foresight of our grandparents.

    If there is one person who can be blamed for exacerbating the problem its probably Gordon Brown. Those of you in the comms industry will recall the 3G licence auction where in the feeding frenzy a rather misguided BT bid £23 BILLION for the licence. This came near to breaking BT and is why they have not been able to afford the cost of widespread infrastructure renewal.

    A more foresighted Chancellor with his PM Blair would have said to BT " OK we will take just the £3 billion we expected and you will spend the other £20 billion on the infrastructure renewal. Instead Brown just pissed it up the wall along with a few hundred more billions.

    The UK needs an optic infrastructure, not so much for where we are now as give or take a bit the system just about copes. But to go forward we desperately need greater capacity.

    Lets explore just one small example, with universal high speed high capacity broadband high definition video conferencing becomes a reality. There is then significantly less need to travel for business or leisure, less fuel, more time, more efficiency, Oh and no need for the proposed £30 billion expenditure on a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham so its actually self funding.

    yes the installation would generate some jobs during its implementation but not many, although those created would be for the problem area of employment, the unskilled.

    It would however be the catalyst for new small businesses that would not of necessity need to be in large towns and cities, and its in this area that many new businesses and employment would be created.

    Oh, by the way I have been part of the IT & Communications Industry since 1970.

    So don't just snipe at poor old David Davis, he is at least trying to open a debate

    1. Red Bren

      And your political position?

      Where did you get the £23 Billion figure from? The entire auction only raised £22 Billion (, which Gordon Brown "pissed up the wall" by paying off the national debt (Bottom of P18 in )

      Gordon Brown can be accused of many things, but forcing BT and others to pay through the nose for a 3G licence is not one of them. It was an open auction for a limited good. The price paid was determined by good old supply and demand - that cornerstone of capitalism. If you can't afford the price, you don't buy it.

      What you can accuse Gordon of was spineless capitulation in the face of bleats of poverty from the 3G bidders. Imagine if the monolithic, monopolistic BT had been forced to split OpenReach from its retail arm? We could have a truly independent back-haul provider with an incentive to provide quality commercial broadband to all ISPs.

      David Davis isn't opening a debate, he's playing to the nasty wing of the Tory Party. Peddling the myth that living on the dole is somehow luxury, while claiming expenses from the tax payer for things no private-sector employer would consider for a moment.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Political irony

      So, showing you have no political axe to grind here, you write:

      "A more foresighted Chancellor with his PM Blair would have said to BT " OK we will take just the £3 billion we expected and you will spend the other £20 billion on the infrastructure renewal. Instead Brown just pissed it up the wall along with a few hundred more billions."

      Very unbiased of you eh?

      More importantly are you suggesting HMG should have said to a public company, we dont want you to pay what you have bid cos we think it is too much?

      How does that make a free market? Why not privatise BT again and then control where the money goes? Oh yeah, cos apparently that was bad.

      Companies cant have their cake and eat it. They take risks and if they f*ck up they should suffer otherwise the market is a joke. As long as they are happy to reap the profits in the good times, they should suffer the pain in the bad times. What else is fair?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where would the unskilled dig?

    Given that there is billions of pounds worth of easily damaged infrastructure under roads and pavements, this scheme could create more new work than was originally scheduled. Let the same people loose on that, and the whole thing could spiral out of control and the country disappear under backed up sewage as power and telcommunications go down (with the only source of light being plumes of burning gas from fractured mains.)

    Or am I being alarmist? Isn't this just a case of Purnell's Law which says that *any* politician ignored by the media for a sufficient time will eventually say the unemployed should do other people's jobs?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like