Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
MOTTRAM KCB AND
MONDAY 4 MARCH 2002
(Sir Richard Mottram) Because just a few weeks previously
both officials and ministers had reviewed all of the Corporation's
forward plans and this problem had not been clearly brought to
101. But surely you could not have looked very
far, because even a cursory study of their accounts showed huge
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, I agree.
102. So why were there not
(Sir Richard Mottram) I think the deferred payments
are indeed the issue. The way in which the Corporation were anticipating
money voted by Parliament years ahead was an issue which the Department
should really have confronted more directly.
103. And it did not. So what have you done to
make sure it does not happen again?
(Sir Richard Mottram) From 1996 onwards there was
a much stronger focus within the Department and within the Government
Office on the cash flow management of the Corporation. Indeed,
as the Report brings out, in order to avoid the Corporation, for
example, not paying its debts, the Department supplied additional
money, and it supplied additional money in circumstances where
it was repeatedly writing to the Corporation over a period of
many years saying to the Corporation, "You must live within
your budget, you will not get more money from the Government,
you must operate within a framework of Government accounting."
Perhaps people within the DepartmentI have to choose my
words carefullythought this message would be rather more
readily received than it was.
104. In paragraph 2.18 there is in effect in
the careful way in which the NAO phrases these things an allegation
that the Chief Executive lied to you. This is in regard to the
calls you had received from solicitors and a bank asking for security,
"The Chief Executive told the Department that the enquiries
from third parties had arisen from contractors who were tendering
for Corporation work . . . However, the original enquiries from
the solicitors and the bank concerned the security that the Corporation
could offer to banks . . .", in other words, the Chief Executive
told you something which subsequently turned out not to be the
case. Do you think he has lied?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I think that is perhaps a question
105. It is a question to you.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, I know, I am sorry. It
appears so, yes. I know what answer he will give, if we give him
the chance here: that this was something which could be put right.
(Sir Richard Mottram) This is something which could
be put right by not doing it again, and then the issue is, does
it get done again.
107. But you think he lied?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I do not want to accuse anyone
108. You just did. You just said he lied.
(Sir Richard Mottram) You asked me the question, "Would
it appear he lied from paragraph 2.18 of the Report"
109. And you answered?
(Sir Richard Mottram) It would.
110. No, you did not, you said, "Yes, he
lied." Well, I cannot remember, but the record will show
what you said.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It probably will.
111. I am sorry but this has happened twice
in the last 15 minutes. You said you agreed with me he had bent
and broken the rules and then two minutes later you took that
back; a minute ago you said he lied and now you take that back.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Actually the only thing I took
back was "consistently".
112. I know you have been pretty careful with
your language in recent days and the whole national media has
been following what you have been saying
(Sir Richard Mottram) I am a completely reformed character.
113. Your use of language in the last 15 minutes
has been quite extraordinary. You said very harsh things about
Mr Hall, took them back a minute or two later. It seems an extraordinary
attitude you are taking.
(Sir Richard Mottram) No, I think the words I tried
to take back were the question about "consistently".
I deliberately took them back because I thought they were unfair.
The point I was trying to make in taking them back and then restating
my position was that there are a number of cases in this Report
where I believe the rules were broken, and on some of those cases
the Department either knew and did not perhaps take action (we
could argue about the action it took), in other cases according
to the Report it did not know. This was over a long period of
time, so we are picking out a number of examples in the case of
a Corporation that was in being for a large number of years and,
as Mr Hall himself pointed out, dealt with lots and lots of deals,
and we are just looking at a small sample of them where it went
wrong. That is my position, if I may restate it.
Mr Osborne: I have to say that I do find your
whole attitude one of arrogance and flippancy, to use your own
word. I know it is terribly inconvenient for you to come before
us today, you have just suspended your Head of Media and you probably
have loads more problems on your plate, but I have to say from
reading this Report in the eight months I have been on this Committee
this is the most damning report I have read. I am a relatively
new member of this Committee but it is the most damning report
I have read and your whole attitude, I have to say, I find absolutely
distasteful. I will end my questioning there.
114. Sir Richard, you said in answer to a colleague
that the Department could reasonably have expected the Corporation
to have conducted itself within the framework of governance. Do
you still hold by that answer?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I do.
115. Is that the Department's approach to all
(Sir Richard Mottram) It is.
116. So if the organisation is not conducting
itself within the framework of governance, what happens?
(Sir Richard Mottram) What I said right at the beginning
is that we have a framework in which we operate, we can talk about
the way in which we monitor performance, there are regular discussions
going on between us and the non-departmental public bodies which
we are responsible for, if an organisation operates outwith that
framework then there are a number of different steps you could
take in relation to that body.
117. For example?
(Sir Richard Mottram) For example, you could change
the delegations, you could change the Board, you could ask the
Board to change the Chief Executive.
118. Which of those has been done in this case?
(Sir Richard Mottram) None.
119. Why not?
(Sir Richard Mottram) Because on balance the Department
decided the best course was to maintain an active dialogue with
the Corporation but not to take any of those courses.