Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-359)



  340. One of the things I know is that when you do negotiations as a Chief Executive it is okay to have a go but very often you have to have confidence and the Board have to have confidence in you, and it is the best deal you can get on that day. You take it back and the Board ratify the deal according to the circumstances surrounding the deal.
  (Mr Hall) That is correct.

  341. Being that dynamic individual in essence you are the Corporation, effectively, on a day-to-day basis. Would you say that is true?
  (Mr Hall) I think I would be flattered by that statement. I think the Corporation is the Chairman, the Board, the Chief Executive and the staff.

  342. Okay, there is the staff. You are the driving force?
  (Mr Hall) I looked to be the driving force of the organisation in terms of the regeneration of the area.

  343. And the remit given to you was given to you by whom at the time?
  (Mr Hall) It was given to me via the Act which set up the Urban Development Corporation.

  344. So the Government told you to get on with the job?
  (Mr Hall) Effectively that is what the Act says.

  345. I do not see any reason why you should not get on with the job and, as you can show, success has meant a lot of the inward investment you brought in, turning some of the contaminated areas round, and surely these amounts we are losing are minor amounts in the total budget, are they not?
  (Mr Hall) They are in fact, yes.

  346. When I looked at the disposal of things, I thought it was rather ironic. You do get confused and you certainly confused me so I want to try and clarify one or two points. On the disposal of this mortgage, whatever it is called, for this shipyard you said it was not the best decision by the Corporation, and that reinforced my feeling that you were the Corporation because you made the deal, and in fact the deal was done after the last Board meeting so the Board could not ratify the deal in any way, shape or form, could it?
  (Mr Hall) The situation was, so far as I recall, the Board had agreed to the disposal of the site.

  347. So the detail was left to you then?
  (Mr Hall) Yes.

  348. In fact a lot of the detail was left to you, was it not, on these schemes?
  (Mr Hall) In actual fact the broad decisions and the broad principles of the negotiations, once accepted by the Board, were then spread out to the various departments and staff of the Corporation.

  349. But when you went back to the Board you were the one who fed them the information and you were the one who took the decision to them for ratification in effect?
  (Mr Hall) I think it should be appreciated, because that almost gives the impression that the only person who wrote papers for the Board was myself—

  350. No, no, I should think there would be a team writing the papers but channelling them through you because you were the person who took them to the Board. This is normal procedure?
  (Mr Hall) Yes, to the Chairman, to myself and to the Board, yes.

  351. And the Board then rubber-stamped it.
  (Mr Hall) No, the Board had a discussion and either decided to approve it or reject it or go back for something else.

  352. How many of these decisions you took before the Board were rejected?
  (Mr Hall) I do not think a great deal of them were rejected over the lifetime of the Corporation.

  353. Would you like to name one?
  (Mr Hall) I can certainly think—What is the formal phrase I should use? I will pass on that, think about it and come back to you with the decisions.[12]

  354. With the written details. I should have thought it would have stuck out in your mind, to be honest, because a decision turned down by the Board was a rare event.
  (Mr Hall) I would not expect it, quite frankly, to be a popular event, because I would expect the Board to have confidence in its Chief Executive, and equally I would expect the Chief Executive to have confidence in the Board.

  355. So in the main the Board went along with whatever you, in the best interests of the Corporation, proposed to it?
  (Mr Hall) I do not think they just went along with it. There was plainly discussion and all the other matters which would take place, asking questions of what we were doing, but then the Board would recommend and approve the proposal.

  356. If you go back over your contribution, and you will no doubt get a copy of this record, there was an inference quite early on in the meeting that it was the Board which was responsible for most of the decisions, and if anything went wrong it was the Board's fault and not yours. Would I be wrong in getting that impression?
  (Mr Hall) I would not like to make that distinction. I think the situation is that the Board of the Corporation was plainly responsible for its decisions but by and large you would expect them to follow the advice and recommendations of the Chief Executive.

  357. Yes, so would you say the Board was stupid or lazy?
  (Mr Hall) The Board were neither stupid nor lazy. I think that is very unfortunate phraseology for some outstanding people.

  358. But they went along with all these decisions made in this Report and they rubber-stamped your recommendations.
  (Mr Hall) They went along with the decisions which are referred to in this Report, that is correct.

  359. Even though the Corporation at the time was breaching many of the rules laid down for it?
  (Mr Hall) I think we come back to the point that from the Corporation's point of view, rightly or wrongly, we remained of the belief that in finding out we were in that kind of breach or potential breach or bending of the rules, quite frankly which comes out in this Report, that was not the situation the Corporation considered itself to be in for 11 years.

12   Note by witness: I regret after due consideration that without the benefit of the Board papers and minutes I cannot definitely identify the items or matters which the Board rejected. Back

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