Examination of Witness (Questions 200-219)|
THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002
200. There was a problem in the Department which
was causing all kind of difficulties, it eventually goes nuclear,
it is a fair question to ask, why did somebody who knew what was
going on a long time before not put in motion an action that would
have resolved it?
(Sir Richard Mottram) What was the action that would
have resolved it, if I am allowed to ask you a question?
201. You are not?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I thought I was not.
202. If I was the Permanent Secretary you would
legitimately ask me that question and I would have to answer it.
(Sir Richard Mottram) I will answer the question.
There were two choices open to us. Insofar as we are talking about
the activities and behaviour of one special adviser, the choices
open us to were to seek to manage the relationship between that
special adviser and the rest of the Department or to ask that
special adviser to leave. Those were the choices.
203. Did you bring to somebody's attention that
her presence and her activities were causing difficulties?
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, it was known there were
difficulties. They were not universal. It was not the case that
there were these difficulties in relation to every member of the
Department about every issue.
204. Did you express a view round September
11 that this person remaining in post was going to cause problems?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I do not think we should discuss
what views I might have expressed inside the Department.
205. You were saying that was the origin of
all this, if that was sorted then none of this would have arisen.
I am just asking you, did you express a view at that point about
what should happen?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I do not think, although I have
been proved to be wrong, that on September 11, or whenever this
document was leaked and published, which was October 9 or something,
it was obvious that this problem could not be managed, no.
206. At that point, no. As the months went on
this problem manifested itself in the ways that we now know all
about. Here was part of the Department, at least, which was not
functioning well. Did you go to somebody and say, look we have
real problems here and because of this it has to be sorted.
(Sir Richard Mottram) I was talking to the people
in the Department who were responsible for helping to sort it,
and we were seeking sort it, but not by insisting, which we could
not do anyway, and not by demandingI did not demand that
the special adviser concerned should leave the Department.
207. You did not go the Secretary of State and
say, look, this special adviser of yours is bullying her way all
round this Department and causing all kinds of problems and really
has to go.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Again, what I said to the Secretary
of State should be private. No, I did not, no.
208. But did not!
(Sir Richard Mottram) No.
209. You did not go the press people and say,
look, all of this war and leaking has to stop?
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, of course I did.
210. It did not.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It did and it did not is the
answer. It did and it did not. As we brought in a new director
of communications, and so on, and some of the staff were changing
over, constantly we were impressing on the staff the importance
of operating within the proper framework for civil servants. We
were seeking to ensure that the special adviser concerned understood
the importance of the way she worked with others.
211. Let me just ask you one final question,
and I will ask colleagues to come in, we have all these issues,
which you talk about endlessly, to solve problems and boundary
disputes when they arise, Civil Service Codes, Special Adviser
Codes, all this stuff, none of that helped us at all, did it,
when it really got to be a problem in this case, what does that
tell us about that?
(Sir Richard Mottram) At the end of the day between
the 11 and 14 February probably one or two people did things which
were inappropriate and in breach of their obligations under the
Civil Service Code, and so on. If you are asking me the question,
do I think it is important that these codes exist, that they are
always present in the minds of civil servants, and they are the
values they are supposed to represent, the approaches they are
supposed to take and are those things operational inside my Department
like in other Departments the answer is that they are. They are
valuable. If we simply say, because every so often something goes
wrong we will throw away the processes, the codes, the values
because on one occasion in whatever they failed that would be
a very odd thing to do.
212. As the codes were about trying to find
ways to resolve difficulties when they arise, here a difficulty
arose and no procedures of any kind were used at all, were they?
Nobody complained to anybody, nobody went through the codes?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I can give you one small example.
I think it has been misrepresented and I think it has now been
corrected with the Committee. It is an important point. There
is a story in relation to one of these events involving Jo Moore
that the individuals concerned were summoned to my office and
asked to explain themselves and then reprimanded. This has become
one of the great myths. What actually happened was the individuals
concerned were indeed summoned to my office to explain why we
had what appeared to be a big argument going on and they explained
themselves and then essentially what they said was, "We were
asked to do something, we did not feel it was appropriate as civil
servants to do it and we are now potentially in the bit of trouble",
so to speak. Then one of the individuals concerned said to me
after they had given this explanation, "Well, did I do the
right thing or did I not?" Far from rebuking this individual,
as has been alleged in the newspapers, I said, "Yes, you
did the right thing". That was absolutely the message that
I wanted to be given to the staff, that they were to operate within
the framework of all the rules of the Government Information Service
and the Civil Service code, that is the way the Department runs.
I think these codes do have value. The question you are really
asking me is, were people able to make use of "conflict resolution".
I do not know why I am speaking using all of these military analogies
today. Perhaps it is because I am under siege! Did the procedures
to which they could complain or raise issues work wholly effectively?
Well, they did not, no.
Chairman: Thank you.
213. I would like to pick up on that and refer
back to when we interviewed Sir Richard Wilson. That, of course,
largely centred upon, as far as I was concerned, Martin Sixsmith's
predecessor. I do think what happened then is relevant to this
situation we find ourselves in today. Certainly Sir Richard Wilson
indicated there was not a formal inquiry but his words were, "You
can rest assured that the Permanent Secretary of that Department
has gone to great lengths to satisfy themselves about exactly
what happened". Those were his words. I was wondering whether
you can tell us whether Alun Evans discussed Jo Moore's conduct
with you or he was the person who actually made a complaint about
Jo Moore's conduct?
(Sir Richard Mottram) He did and he did not.
Chairman: Would you try that again?
214. That is a Liberal answer!
(Sir Richard Mottram) He did discuss her conduct with
me. He did discuss with me the particular events that were related
to were we or were we not putting out a document about Mr Kiley,
if we are talking about those events. He did not make a formal
complaint. That was what I meant. Is that clear?
215. Yes. What I am not quite clear about insofar
as it appears in the Code for Special Advisers is I find it quite
odd that the onus is on the civil servant in the Special Advisers'
Code of Conduct where it says a complaint should be made under
those circumstances. I think that is what my question is. That
appears in the Civil Service Code as well. If there is something
that was untoward, it says in both Codes that a complaint should
be made. I am trying to identify whether that complaint was made
(Sir Richard Mottram) Again there is a problemand
I might say in parenthesis that there are issues about how effectively
one communicates what has been going on around the department
and how far you try and kill off things, for reasons I can explain
in a second. That particular case was interesting in two respects.
The first respect was that it was the case that individuals in
the Department were asked to do something they refused to do.
It was the case that I interviewed them about why they had refused
to do it. It was the case that one of them, who was not Alun Evans
as it happens, said to me, as I just said a few minutes ago, "Did
I do the right thing or not?" I said, "You did the right
thing", and that document that we had been asked to release
was not released. The complication was that for other reasons,
which I am perfectly happy to discuss with the Committee in reasonably
general terms (again it is about an individual), Alun Evans was
standing down as the Director of Communications and the idea got
around that the reason why he was standing down was because of
the events on that day. It was not my view that that was the reason
why he was standing down because I happen to know myself the reason
why he was standing down. I can explain that to the Committee.
Therefore, I certainly did have conversations with Alun Evans
about why it was that he might move on from his job. I also had
more than one conversation with him where I explained to him that
this was nothing to do with what happened on that day. How could
it have had anything to do with what happened on that day because
he and every other civil servant in that department had behaved
properly? I had told the civil servant concerned who was most
worried about his or her positionand it is pretty obvious
who it is because they are in correspondence with you`you
did nothing wrong'. The reason why Alun Evans was moving on was
a much broader reason to do with the deployment of staff and the
sort of person that the Secretary of State wanted in that job,
not something in any way out with any of the Codes we have, something
perfectly normal which I am happy to talk about in great detail,
which did not in any way reflect badly on Alun Evans and did not
raise any questions therefore about discipline or Codes. Do you
see what I mean? It is rather a long answer, I apologise.
216. Jonathan Baume told us last week: "I
should have intervened much more effectively after Alun Evans
was forced to move." So clearly we have perceptions, and
rather serious perceptions, that the hub of the matter lies around
that and I am not sure that the question is really answered. Was
Alun Evans encouraged or forced to move?
(Sir Richard Mottram) Alun Evans was encouraged to
move by me on the basis that he wasLet me take you back
one step and I will perhaps explain it to you because I can also
link it into how we came to appoint Martin Sixsmith. This is something
I alluded to in my opening remarks about the way in which departments
work for that small number of posts which are very closely associated
with MinistersPrincipal Private Secretary, Director of
Communications, and so on. If we go back to when Alun Evans was
appointed and the basis on which he was appointed, for which I
was responsible, the Deputy Prime Minister who was then in charge
of the Department had a clear view about what he wantedthe
characteristics, the competencies, the balance of expertisein
the Director of Communications in what was then DETR. We had a
report prepared on how we would organise the Department. I am
sorry to go on at length but I think it is important, if you will
forgive me Chairman. We had a discussion at length, and a report
prepared about what we thought were the key competencies wanted
in the top person who was the Director of Communications for DETR.
What the Deputy Prime Minister wanted, and he was very clear about
this, was he wanted to give weight to the management and strategic
planning aspects of that job and he was more relaxed and rather
tended to downplay any spokesman role in relation to that job,
partly because elsewhere in the organisation we also had a couple
of people who did that role below the level of the top person.
That was the structure the Deputy Prime Minister wanted. We had
an open competition to find the person for that job. Alun Evans,
who was a career civil servant who had previous significant policy
experience (mainly in the Department for Employment and the Department
for Education) was working in the Strategic Communications Unit
of the Cabinet Office and he had a set of skills that were well
matched to what the Deputy Prime Minister wanted for that job.
When after the Election Mr Byers joined the Departmentand
I think this is quite ironical in some waysone of the few
civil servants that Mr Byers knew in my Department was Alun Evans.
They had worked together in the Department for Education and he
had a very high opinion of Alun Evans. However, what he wanted
was a different blend of skills in the Director for Communications
and he preferred to have a Director for Communications who was
stronger on experience of the media and how one managed that part
of the process. That is a perfectly proper thing for Mr Byers
as the Secretary of State to want. He and I discussed this in
the way that you do after a change of Government or a change of
Minister. What you do is sit down over a period of weeks, you
discuss with the Ministers the blend you have got in the top team,
the people you have got in the top posts, the people you have
got in the posts surrounding them, the person they want as their
Principal Private Secretary, etcetera. In that context, the Secretary
of State felt that he would prefer someone with a different blend
of competencies, and since Alun Evans was a career civil servant
whom could be readily deployed somewhere else, I did not myself
think that this was the most earth-shattering thing I had ever
heard. Indeed, in my own position as Permanent Secretary of the
Department I already had in my mind that it was not in Alun Evans'
interests to spend too much longer in the field of communications
and that if we were developing him as a civil servant, then he
should move on before too long. These events came together. They
certainly overlapped with a bit of a ruche about who said
what to whom on a Wednesday, but the fundamental point was there
was a perfectly defensible set of reasons for why Alun Evans should
move out of that job and go to another Civil Service job, without
any suggestion that he had ever remotely breached any aspect of
the Civil Service Code or had behaved in any way improperly. That
was what I said to him repeatedly. The only problem we had was
we had to try and manageI know it is a terrible word but
I keep coming backing to itthe fact that people were very
suspicious that there was some deep plot that lay somewhere else,
and we had to manage the thought that he was in a sense being
moved on because the Secretary of State wanted to move him on,
which obviously is not good news if you are a senior civil servant.
My view always was that there was absolutely no reason why he
should not move on because it made sense in his own career interests.
We had to try and manage the myths around why he moved on.
217. So it was a career move for him?
(Sir Richard Mottram) It was.
218. As a journalist?
(Sir Richard Mottram) He has no journalistic background.
He is a policy civil servant, that is his career, who had been
working in the communications' field. He had no media experience.
I do not think Alun would ever argue that he is the greatest briefer
of journalists that the world had ever seen. He was very very
good on strategic planning and on the policy aspects of issues
he was dealing with and on managing what was quite a big directorate.
He was on the board of the Department, for example. But the Secretary
of State wanted a slightly different blend of skills and for that
sort the job it is perfectly proper for the Secretary of State
to have such a different set of skills.
219. I am going to move on because I may be
hogging the time.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It may be me, I am sorry.