FAMOUSLY, Nye Bevan, architect of the NHS in Labour's immediate postwar Government, secured the agreement of hospital consultants to this most beneficial of institutions by, in his own strong phrase, "stuffing their mouths with gold". On top of generous salaries, they were allowed to keep their private practices, which Bevan had wished to abolish.

For the next 25 years or so private practice was hardly an issue. With the best treatment available on the NHS without undue waiting, the only motive for "going private" was snobbery. And since, thankfully, most people are not snobs, private medicine almost withered on the vine.

Almost, but not quite. And, as NHS waiting lists have lengthened, genuine anxiety about personal health has propelled many people into private health care, even against their consciences. As we all know, private operations for many painful and troubling conditions can be obtained within days or weeks, compared with a wait of months or years on the NHS.

To its great credit the Government regards this as unacceptable. Though not willing to go Bevan's unhappily-abandoned whole hog, it wants to reduce the time NHS consultants spend on private practice. So it proposes that newly-qualified consultants shall be banned from private practice for seven years.

The consultants and the BMA are up in arms. "We have had some very angry calls and letters from specialist registrars," says Dr Peter Hawker, a top BMA man. "These are the consultants of the future and I share their anger. They want to use their skills to the full benefit of patients, and the BMA will back them."

Not a word, you will notice, of the grubby matter of money. The future consultants' anger has nothing to do with the alarming sight of pound notes disappearing before their eyes. They are so dismayed by being denied the chance to offer full benefit of their skills that they threaten to move abroad. Two of their professional bodies, the Association of Surgeons in Training and the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association, say the suggestion that, after years of training within the NHS, they must "repay the state", is "contemptible."

It looks eminently sensible to me, and one trusts that Health Secretary Alan Milburn, who believes the "lucrative" private practice should be a reward not a right, will call the consultants' petulant bluff. Amid the many disappointments of New Labour, the ban on private practice, albeit partial, is a shining example of the kind of action for the people that many looked forward to when the Blair government was elected.

HAILED by more than one authority as the "destiny" of the cricket, the first international indoor one-day test match has been staged - Australia v South Africa - under a ring of baseball-style lights, and watched by a crowd of 25,000, in Melbourne's Colonial Stadium.

Kerry Packer's so-called cricket circus in Australia in 1978, which introduced the pyjama game under floodlights, is invariably identified as having set cricket along this particular road. But the idea is much older.

In his book Days in the Sun, published in 1924, the great cricket writer Neville Cardus noted: "One has heard folk ask for cricket to be played in some glass-domed Olympia, brilliant with electric light."

Alas, Cardus doesn't reveal who urged this innovation, decades ahead of its advent. But he continues: "The cricketer of soul knows better than this. He knows that whoever would appreciate cricket must rightly have a sense, as he sits in the sun (there can be no real cricket without sunshine) that he is attending part of the pageant of summer." In a later book, The Summer Game, he amplified this theme: "Cricket is the summer game, and as we watch it under a blue sky we can feel it is part of summer's passing show of rich nature and loveliness... Cricket somehow holds the English secret; it belongs to summer in this land no less than our great trees and our beneficent countryside."

Since his death in 1975 Cardus's stock has fallen, and his view of cricket, in which, the summer connection apart, he valued the display of personal art and character far above competition and results, is now dismissed as hopelessly out of date and romantic. Well, that makes two of us.

LAUNCHED on the Stock Exchange in a blaze of admiring publicity last March, the world's best known Web company, Lastminute.com, is still losing money - £9.3m in the three months to the end of June alone. But that hasn't prevented it taking over a French rival, Degriftour, for £59m. Experts predict the purchase will clip a year off Lastminute's anticipated emergence into profit - now the end of 2002 instead of 2003. Wow.