Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
MONDAY 14 JANUARY 2002
160. Has anyone asked them why they felt it
necessary to cheat?
(Mr Crisp) I am sure that people have; I have not.
I think people probably asked them why has this happened, why
have you done this?
161. You do not know what their answer was?
(Mr Crisp) No and I think it is probably difficult
162. Do you not think, given that this problem
has arisen, it is important to know why people felt they had to
(Mr Crisp) In individual cases that may well be true
but I think our responsibility is to make sure that it does not
happen again rather than to get involved in individual disciplinary
163. Is not one way of making sure it does not
happen again knowing why it happened in the first place? Is that
not an important part of thinking about what you could do to make
sure it does not happen again?
(Mr Crisp) I understand the logic of your point, I
am trying to think whether or not it has any practical application,
whether you would find out anything by doing that which was helpful.
164. I think it would have been the very first
question I would have asked, why did this happen. Can I come then
to the confidentiality questions which have been raised by a number
of colleagues. You have said that you have discovered that it
is necessary now to make the guidance firmer.
(Mr Crisp) Make it a direction.
165. Make legislation so it becomes a directive,
that has to happen. The one thing that we have said in this Committee
on a number of occasions is that we need to see more cross-ministry
working, if you like. What discussions have you had with other
ministries about whether they allow confidentiality agreements
in this case and whether they give it out as guidance or as a
(Mr Crisp) I have not personally had any involvement
with anybody else on this. I do know that we have been looking
at confidentiality requirements in the light of general Government
policy. Others may be in a better position to do that, I have
not personally done anything about that.
166. Are you going to?
(Mr Crisp) I am not sure that I personally will be.
The next directive that we send out will be consistent with what
you have said to us, that is the first point. Secondly, I think
it is a fair question to ask whether it will be consistent with
what other Government departments may be doing. We will certainly
(Mr Foster) I think it will be my responsibility to
do that. I will be overseeing the production of new guidance and
it will be perfectly proper to make sure that it is consistent
with the rest of Government policy and other departments.
167. Can I just ask the Treasury to confirm
that if we have a recommendation that we should go along with
this, ie the guidance should become a directive, that information
that the NHS at least have found it important to change guidance
into a directive will be passed on to other ministries?
(Mr Hull) It already has been passed on to other ministries.
In a letter dated 25 January 1994 to Principal Finance Officers
it states "The Committee", that is this Committee, "recognised
that it might be appropriate to seek such undertakings on certain
operational matters, but was concerned that the terms should not
be so restrictive as to be potentially damaging to public accountability,
ie that the terms could impede a person from answering PAC questions."
168. If I may say so, that recommendation by
this Committee was followed up by the NHS issuing guidance. They
have now discovered they need more than guidance, they need a
directive. What I am suggesting is that regulation simply led
to guidance but can we please make sure that the other ministries
note the fact that the NHS at least has found we need more than
guidance, we actually need a directive.
(Mr Crisp) We have taken the point and we will make
sure that it is shared with colleagues in other departments.
169. When did you discover that the confidentiality
agreements had been signed yourself?
(Mr Crisp) In the three cases at, I am sure, three
170. But you knew about them before you saw
(Mr Crisp) Some of them. We would have known in the
preparation of this Report, yes.
171. In all cases did you ask why the guidance
was not followed? You have now told us in Plymouth's case why
guidance was not followed.
(Mr Crisp) I asked personally why the guidance was
not followed. We have asked in the other cases why the guidance
was not followed and in the two cases that I am aware of, two
out of the three, it was for the reason of perceived ambiguity
in the guidance that I explained earlier. It was not about public
accountability, the gagging clause, it was about subsequent
172. Did you ask why guidance had not been followed
before the Report came out?
(Mr Crisp) Because they thought they were following
173. Did you ask why the guidance had not been
followed before the Report from the NAO came out?
(Mr Crisp) I personally got involved as the Report
was On that particular case it was subsequent to the Report
being produced, that was when I personally got involved.
174. Why did you not follow it up before? Was
it not an obvious thing to follow up as soon as you knew that
guidance had not been followed? Why did you wait until the NAO
Report came out?
(Mr Crisp) There is a difference between me personally
doing something and people doing things on my behalf. I could
not tell you exactly when people may have done that on my behalf
but you can imagine there is only time for a certain number of
interviews or phone calls in a day.
175. Can I ask about the compensation, just
one or two follow-up questions from what Mr Gibb was asking. How
many patients affected have received compensation already?
(Mr Crisp) None that I am aware of.
176. Two or three years later none of them have
yet received any compensation?
(Mr Crisp) I think that is the case, yes.
177. You do not know if any compensation is
going to be due?
(Mr Crisp) No.
178. We were told earlier that there was an
attempt by putting in these confidentiality clauses to ensure
that the trust concerned might avoid some future action, possible
future costs. Was there at any time any suggestion in discussing
these confidentiality clauses and whether they should be included
or not that that might mean if there was a confidentiality clause
signed that it might be easier to avoid claims of compensation
by patients? Did anyone ever even mention that as a possibility?
(Mr Crisp) No.
(Mr Foster) There was no suggestion of that.
179. Have you discussed whether that was mentioned
at all or do you think that hopefully it was not?
(Mr Crisp) I think what Mr Foster said was there was
no suggestion that had happened. We can certainly go back and
ask the question in the three cases.