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Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The Met Office (originally an abbreviation for Meteorological Office, but now the official name in itself), is the United Kingdom's national weather service, and a trading fund of the Ministry of Defence...

The Met Office was established in 1854 as a small department within the Board of Trade under Robert FitzRoy as a service to mariners.
According to wikipedia. It also gets a subsidy of nearly £200 million. A "trading fund" is effectively a wholly owned government company getting half of its income from fees.

So are we getting value for our money.

Apparently not. We have had years of the Met Office promising barbecue summers and mild winters. Prior to this winter we had this "prediction not a forecast" for them predicting an average 80% chance of it being warmer. At the same time (i.e. shortly before the Cancun catastrophic warming jamboree) they were telling the government that it would be a cold winter. This is not value for money for the taxpayer (though arguably it is good value for those in government who think their job is to promote false scare stories).

While last century there was good reason to collect and distribute weather information nationally we now live in a world where weather satellites cover the planet & indeed they alone may have saved more money and certainly far more lives, than the entire space programme ever cost. Weather forecasting is no longer a natural monopoly for single countries.

I suggest that we simply sell off this "trading fund" to the highest bidder. There is nothing, except political censorship of weather forecasts, to be lost. The gain would clearly be the vast majority of the 200 million subsidy (government departments would still have to pay some fees for information they want but being able to compete worldwide would be able to get the best as well as the cheapest, neither of which is currently provided).

Just as it is incumbent on any remotely honest politician* saying he wants to spend more money to say what taxes he would raise or other spending cut to provide it I feel the right to suggest ways to spend it and I will do so tomorrow.
*OK I don't know of any politician who has done so.

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