The Emperor's New Clothes or a Gigantic Waste of Money? More name changes at the Board of Trade/DTI/BERR/BIS

06 JUN 2009

The world of insolvency is not unfamiliar with changes of name. R3, the Association of Business Recover Professionals used to be called the Society of Practitioners of Insolvency. Many law firms and accountancy firms re-branded their insolvency departments to become "Corporate Rescue" or "Corporate Restructuring" departments to reflect the change in emphasis that the Corkian Insolvency Act 1986 encapsulated. My own lectureship title is no different and reflects, inter alia, Finchian ex ante approaches to dealing with insolvent estate management.

Dr Brown's recent cabinet problems have had one unfortunate consequence for the world of insolvency, and in particular the Executive Agency that is the Insolvency Service (IS). The IS's master, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), has changed its name again! I had only just about got used to using the BERR acronym instead of DTI (Department for Trade and Industry) following that change of name in November 2007 (for a history of the department see here) DTI just seemed to role off the tongue more easily than BERR, although BERR was a more amusing acronym to use out loud.

Some two years after the DTI/BERR name change we now have another re-brand for us to grapple with. As a result of the enlarged department that the Lord Mandelson now controls BERR has become BIS. This stands for: (UK Department for) Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The change in name reflects the enveloping of the Universities into the new Business and First Secretary's brief. The BIS website notes:

"The Government has created a new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills whose key role will be to build Britain’s capabilities to compete in the global economy. The Department will be created by merging BERR and DIUS. A new website will be created in due course. In the meantime, you can access the existing DIUS website at www.dius.gov.uk"

It is apparent that the DTI/BERR re-brand cost approximately £218,063 according to a written Parliamentary answer. It is presumed that the BERR/BIS name change will be at least in the same ball park. Against the current financial climate even this relatively small amount  (on the Governmental scale) seems to be a gigantic waste of money. The public perception of such semantic tinkering is only going to be negative. In the rush to reshuffle this consideration was obviously overlooked, or worse, dismissed. For my part I cannot understand why we changed from the DTI title for the business function of the department. One does have to appreciate that Lord Mandelson's responsibilities are now much increased, being both Deputy Prime Minister (in effect), and also now being in charge of the Universities as well. But this just gives rise to further issues around how well this new goliath department will operate. These issues are however outside the remit of this blog.

Is it now time for the Insolvency Service to change its name as well? I have mooted a statute name change elsewhere in relation to the principal Act that governs the area, i.e. from an Insolvency Act to a Restructuring Act. We have already had the Enterprise Act regulating an area of insolvency - why not move with this rhetorical shift towards positivity? It will only cost about £200,000.

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