Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Letter to ENTRUST from the Clerk of the Environment Sub-Committee


  I write further to the written and oral evidence given by representatives of ENTRUST and by Dr Malcolm Aickin in connection with the Environment Sub-committee's inquiry into Delivering Sustainable Waste Management.

  The Committee understands that the ENTRUST Board has recently withdrawn its offer to Dr Aickin to join ENTRUST's Improvement Panel. According to your letter to Dr Aickin of 27 February, which we have seen, the decision to do so was taken "in view of your [ie Dr Aickin's] correspondence with the Select Committee".

  The Committee is most disturbed by the ENTRUST Board's actions in this case. Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice says, "Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a Committee is a contempt", continuing "On the same principle, molestation of or threats against those who have previously given evidence before either House or a Committee will be treated by the House concerned as a contempt" (22nd edition, pp 126, 127). These principles have also been restated in a Report from the Committee of Privileges of 1989.

  Additionally, the Board's actions appear to be contrary to the Witnesses (Public Inquiries) Protection Act 1892, clause 2 of which states:

    Every person who commits any of the following acts, that is to say, who threatens, or in any way punishes, damnifies, or injures, or attempts to punish, damnify or injure, any person for having given evidence upon any inquiry [including an inquiry by a Committee of the House of Commons; see clause 1 of the Act], or on account of the evidence which he has given upon any such inquiry, shall, unless such evidence was given in bad faith, be guilty of a misdemeanour.

  The Committee therefore requests that you appear before it on the morning of Wednesday 21 March to explain the Board's actions. I am sure that I need not tell you that, unless you are able to offer a satisfactory explanation of the Board's actions, the Committee will be expecting a full and frank apology for what it currently regards as a gross contempt of the rights and privileges of the House of Commons and its committees.

  I await your confirmation of your attendance before the Committee.

Huw Yardley
Clerk, Environment Sub-committee

12 March 2001

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