Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 180-199)

SIR RICHARD MOTTRAM KCB

THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002

  180. Did it produce any result?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It did not, no, for a reason I could explain if you want me to.

  181. It might be helpful as this is the key event.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) What happened was the original e-mail was copied to a very small number of people. For reasons I do not particularly want to go into, it was subsequently copied to others and became widely known within one part of the Department, so it was very difficult to track it back to any individual. The idea, for example, that because there were three names or four names on the e-mail itself that it was one of those three names was always widely implausible, in my view. It became clear that it was much more widely disseminated. It may not even have been from my Department that it eventually leaked.

  182. So a leak inquiry but you could not find out who did that which was the cause of all the trouble?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Exactly.

  183. On the fatal day a week or two ago when these dual resignations were taking place, there was another leak—premature news of this announcement—which caused all the problems after that. Have you sought to find out where that leak came from?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I have not, Chairman, no.

  184. Because in the scale of leaks it is not worth bothering about?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I have not because I was not sure I would ever get to the bottom of it.

  185. Is it not true, I have heard this argued all the time, that your Department is the most leaky department around?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No, it is not, Chairman no.

  186. You do not think so?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) For example, if we take these two cases, it is probable but not necessarily correct that the Jo Moore e-mail was leaked by someone in my Department. It is probably but not necessarily the case. How the two resignations came to come to the media's attention I have no idea but I find it quite implausible that it came from anyone in my Department. The number of officials who knew about this was very small, the number of Ministers who knew was very small, and we had no interest in letting it out.

  187. When did you first realise that you were presiding over a dysfunctional department?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I have never presided over a dysfunctional department. What we had was a problem in relation to one part of the press office in the Department.

  188. I use the word because it has been used by a Cabinet Minister in referring to the Department. We heard evidence last week from Jonathan Baume at the FDA where he said for many months from last autumn all this was going on.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) "All this" being?

  189. All this being the problem that erupted a week or two ago.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We had a problem inside the Department between, on the one hand, one of our special advisers and, on the other hand—I think—a small number of our staff. We had some leaks from our Department into the newspapers. If the Committee went back and did an analysis of how many stories have been produced over the last six to nine months that appear to have come from "leaks" from government departments, I am not sure DTLR would win the prize for the number of policy related leaks. We had a particular problem, I think, that one or two people in my department gossiped and might have thought it was clever to leak about relationships in the department between one special adviser and a small group of staff. It is not for me to comment on the views of Cabinet Ministers but I do not myself believe it is fair, for reasons I gave in my introductory remarks, to say that DTLR is a dysfunctional department because in one area of its activity we were seeking to deal with that problem.

  190. So that we are clear, we are now getting into some issues that raise wider questions. You knew, as you were telling us, for a long time, months, there was a problem between a special adviser part of your Department?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) A special adviser, yes.

  191. The special adviser part as represented by a special adviser—
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

  192. —and the press office?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Parts of the press office, yes.

  193. A section of the press office. And that all kinds of problems were coming out of this. The question that is asked all of the time is, if everyone knew this, and if you knew this, why on earth was it not sorted before it blew up in everybody's face?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) There are a number of different ways of trying to tackle these problems. I have been over them in my mind over recent weeks, unsurprisingly!

  194. Share your mind with us?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I will share my mind with you. You can try and manage out a situation to seek to get from A to B with roughly everybody on the bus. Right. Put another way, the decision in relation to the special adviser, the decision whether the special adviser should or should not leave after 11 September was a decision which I think was taken at a level above mine.

  195. Do you know who took it?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I do not, no.

  196. No idea. Nothing has come to you?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No. It was not my decision. I am not accountable for that, but I sort of ended up responsible for that, and that raises some interesting issues, whether that special adviser was or was not retained inside the Department. As my Secretary of State explained, we discussed the application of the rules in the Departmental Management Code, which is the same as the Civil Service Management Code, in the context of the fact that Jo Moore had sent an e-mail of the kind she did and in Civil Service terms what sort of level of `offence' this would represent in relation to our guidance. My view, which has been made public, which I stick to, was in those terms this was not gross misconduct. It was the sort of thing, the sort of error of judgment which would merit the "punishment" that it received. That is from the perspective of this is a civil servant doing a civil servant-type job. There was obviously a much wider political perspective, a bigger issue for the government. As I say a decision was taken that Jo Moore should remain within the Department. From my perspective as the Permanent Secretary of the Department my obligation was to manage the Department on the basis that she was going to remain a member of the Department, and I set out to do that. As I said earlier, we had in parallel some issues about were members of staff disloyal? These were investigated on more than one occasion. In the absence of clear evidence disciplinary procedures were not taken against any individuals, but a clear effort was made to talk through with those who worked in the press office their obligations as civil servants, and what was expected of them, what would follow if at a future stage there were problems of this kind. We were seeking to manage a problem. With the benefit of hindsight, which is always a wonderful thing, managing this problem was quite tricky. With the benefit of hindsight when it blew up, as it did on whatever day it was, you might say to yourself, we should not have gone along with this, it would not have worked, but actually in many ways it might well have worked. We do not know. There are plenty of counter-factuals to what happened that are plausible. When we appointed the new Director for Communications, Martin Sixsmith, his clear intention, openly expressed to me, was to make a success of his relationship with Jo Moore, and I think he set out to do that. Ultimately, perhaps, he did not succeed. Our plan was to run the Department effectively, including the special advisers in support of our Ministers. As I say, in hindsight you can say all sorts of things about why it did not work.

  197. The problem that we have, all of this talk of hindsight, counter-factuals, all of that, the problem is that everyone else, we are told now, knew what was going on in present sight?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Who is everyone else?

  198. The FDA came along and told us it was known for months, there was somebody described by the FDA, as a classic textbook case of bullying, who had been bullying her way round the Department for months on end causing endless problems with the press department, a kind of civil war raging. You do not require hindsight to see that, do you?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It is the supposition behind your question that I did not know what Jo Moore was doing.

  199. I wanted to know why it was not got hold of earlier on?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It was got hold of earlier on. There is some difficulty in all this that we are talking about individuals and we are talking about private conversations in relation to individuals, and I am not sure it is a very satisfactory thing.


 
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