One perk of working in the government legal service is seeing that work become part of the fabric of national life. For example Jonathan Jones, the Treasury Solicitor – whose office is shortly to be rebranded the Government Legal Department – proudly recalled that some of the phrases he drafted for the Railways Act 1993 survive nearly 20 years later.
Rather depressingly, he said, these cover rail closures, bus replacement services and the insolvency of rail companies.
Jones confessed to pride in seeing that the act’s shortest section – 123 – remains unscathed. It reads: ‘No person shall be regarded as a common carrier by railway.’ Apparently this was virtually the only provision of the controversial bill to survive unscathed in its passage through parliament – ‘possibly because nobody knew what it meant’.
But he confessed to ‘mixed feelings’ about the fact that the Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 1994 also remain on the books: ‘I drafted them and then was promptly “done” for a penalty fare on the day they came into force. To make matters worse, the ticket collector then offered me a leaflet to explain.’