Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 220-239)



  220. We have got confirmed that Alun Evans' move was a career move, a progression in his career?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

  221. Secondly, though the Secretary of State defined what skills he wanted, very shortly afterwards he discovers that he does not want Martin Sixsmith even in the Civil Service. Is that correct?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) There are two different things here and they are separated in time. We had an open competition to appoint a new Director for Communications. Martin Sixsmith was successful in that. For various reasons, that did not work out very well latterly—that is a Civil Service euphemism for "it went belly up". I am choosing my words very carefully, Chairman!

  Annette Brooke: I will pass with that.

Kevin Brennan

  222. I think all of that could have boiled down to John Prescott did not want a spin doctor and Stephen Byers did. Is that right?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) All that boils down to is the very long explanation I gave.

  223. I am interested in the effective working of the Civil Service, the role that special advisers have to play. All the evidence we have had given by members of the Civil Service is that special advisers have a valuable role to play in modern government. I am also interested in this whole business of how they and civil servants are hired and fired because I become more and more intrigued by the way this works as our enquiries go on. You said in answer to the Chairman earlier on that when this original crisis occurred as a result of the inflammatory e-mail, that it was not your decision as Permanent Secretary of the Department to consider whether or not the special adviser should be fired.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes because the special advisers in the Department are appointed personally by the Secretary of State. Everybody else in the Department is appointed through a process which does not involve the personal hiring and firing, so to speak, of the Secretary of State. So in that sense special advisers fall into a slightly different category. If you look at the Model Contract which I have got here, it brings this out.

  224. We have looked in great detail at the Model Contract and the Code of Conduct?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) The Model Contract makes this clear.

  225. I recall at the time that the impression was given that it was very much your decision as the personnel manager as the Permanent Secretary of the Department to discipline any member of your Department, special adviser or not, who had breached a Code of Conduct?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Correct.

  226. But not to decide on whether or not that discipline went so far that somebody would be asked to resign or would be fired? That is not your role at all as the Permanent Secretary?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I think you raise a very interesting question. The contractual status of a special adviser is different to all other civil servants in a department and to that extent I would argue that my power to deploy them, my responsibility for how they are fired—and I am not trying to shuffle things off, I am trying to have a grown-up discussion about reality—my responsibility for who is employed in the Department, my responsibility for appraising how they perform, and taking action in relation to how they perform is different between the special advisers and all other members of my Department because the contractual basis on which they work is different. All members of the Department, including special advisers, are civil servants and they are covered by the Department's Management Code and by the Department's Disciplinary Code. In the Department's Disciplinary Code we define different levels of misconduct that might lead to action being required to be taken against civil servants, including special advisers. So it is entirely theoretically possible, although I do not think there has ever been a case, that a special adviser would do something which constituted gross misconduct. If a special adviser did something which constituted gross misconduct then, in my view, if you had done the process properly in relation to the Civil Service Management Code and the Department's equivalent to this, you would go to the Minister and say, "This official (special adviser) has committed gross misconduct and the application of the rules of the Civil Service would suggest that therefore they should be treated on the basis they have been guilty of gross misconduct" and, generally speaking, the penalty for gross misconduct would be to be dismissed.

   227. If the Minister said to you, "I am not going to sack them", at that point, am I not right in saying, the technical position is that unless the Minister removes the delegation from you, the right to hire and fire anybody, including special advisers, is in the hands of the Permanent Secretary, unless the Minister removes the delegation?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) All of the powers of the Minister are delegated to me in relation to personnel. The way in which they are delegated in relation to special advisers is different. This is wholly hypothetical in relation to Jo Moore on September 11 because it was not, in my view, a case of gross misconduct. Imagine a hypothetical special adviser did something that was gross misconduct and I went to the Secretary of State and said, "Secretary of State, this person is committing gross misconduct", and the Secretary of State said, "Thank you very much, Permanent Secretary, but I am not really very interested" I think you can safely assume I would take it elsewhere, there is another place I can take it.


  228. I presume to the Cabinet Secretary.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Correct and then it would go to the Prime Minister and then it would have to be judged.

Kevin Brennan

  229. Was Number 10 involved at all in discussions at that point about whether or not this was a sacking offence?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) The application of the Civil Service procedures in relation to Jo Moore were solely a matter for me. I judged what her September 11 e-mail constituted in terms of the Department's disciplinary procedures, in the same way as I would with anybody else, with the assistance of somebody else to make sure it was being done properly. We reached a view and I communicated that view to the Secretary of State. That was the basis on which he asked me to do it.

  230. It is not true, as the first report says, that the Secretary of State was prepared to fire Jo Moore but that the view came from Number 10 that he should not, that is not true?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No, I think there are two separate issues here, which in the case of special advisers intercept and might overlap. What is the application of the rules for special advisers in terms of the fact they are civil servants, question one. I have dealt with that question. Question two, since a special adviser is a political animal and is more closely and personally associated with the government than a normal civil servant, what are the political and other consequences of retaining or disposing of the services of the special adviser. That was never a question that I could answer and it was never a question that was run through any process for which I was responsible, so I cannot help you.

  231. There is more than just the obvious victims in all of this, is there not? It has been touted in the press that, perhaps, because you are a Permanent Secretary whose name was being mentioned a possible future Cabinet Secretary, you are from a red brick university, you have been in the Civil Service for 22 years, you use red brick language in dealing with civil servants, there was conspiracy against you in all of these events. Does that kind of politics go on in the Civil Service and do you think it happened in this case?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Perhaps I can take some of these things in turn. I read a very interesting—it was not that interesting, because I find the subject of the remarks I am alleged to have made with the asterisks one of the most tedious subjects I have ever had to deal with—an amusing piece in the Times which showed that using such words was associated either with the lower classes or the upper classes and perhaps as I had been born in the West Midlands, gone to a grammar school and then gone to a university that was sort of red brick actually, but not really—it was the first of the new universities actually—definitely a bit below the salt, I might have been swearing for that reason, or alternatively it was because I spent my lunches with my upper class colleagues in the Athenaeum and their upper classiness had rubbed off on me! I find none of this very plausible. What is actually the case is that much to my regret, actually, these remarks appeared in the newspapers, they were uttered in private to one person, with one other person in the room and they were quite clearly over the top in a number of respects, not least in describing the nature of the crisis we were engulfed in. In previous incarnations I have dealt with life and death matters where lots of people lives were at risk. I have been responsible for things to do with nuclear warfare and whatever one thinks about the events of that Friday they are not in that category. I much regret the thing was so over-hyped.

  232. Is there a conspiracy against you?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I hope not, but you never can tell. Perhaps the members of the press could tell me!


  233. Do you wish that at some point over the last five months you had gone to the Secretary of State and said, "We have a special adviser here who really is behaving as they should not behave and something has to be done about it?"
  (Sir Richard Mottram) That is to assume that we did not discuss these matters. If the question is, should I have brought them to a head and confronted the Secretary of State and said, "This person is behaving in a way which cannot be managed within the Department or tolerated within the Department?, should I have done that, no.

  234. Even now you do not think you should have done that?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No. Obviously I deeply regret what has happened, but I took a judgment, the judgment was reasonable and the judgment was based upon the fact that what really matters for the Department, what matters to all of the people in the Department—this does bear on your inquiry, it was touched on by Jonathan Baume—is to have a good relationship with their Ministers. That is what we want. I do not think it would necessarily have been conducive to that relationship to have picked a fight with one of the Secretary of State's personal special advisers when personally I believed the way in which she was relating with bits of the Department could be managed and managed better. That is what we were doing.

Mr Liddell-Grainger

  235. Charlotte Morgan?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

  236. Why did you get rid of her?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Well, I did not.

  237. Where is she?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Are we really going to talk about a number of individuals? She is in Brussels.

  238. How long is she over there for?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I think about six months.

  239. Was that pre-planned? There was a sort of spate of people that went, Mr Evans and others?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) If we are going to get into this, which I do not want to do, but I will in her case because she was the person I was speaking about earlier, let us be open about this. She is the person who for very good reasons refused to deal with the Kiley document. She was a junior official who refused to deal with it. She was the official who said to me, "Did I do the right thing or did I do the wrong thing?" She was told by me she had done the right thing. If you are a junior official and you are told by the Permanent Secretary you have done the right thing, you do not have to leave the Department, you do not have a problem in the Department if you have done the right thing and you have even asked the Permanent Secretary. She went to Brussels, I think you have this on the record, because she had been seeking to go to Brussels for a number of months and she had applied to go to Brussels last April. Moreover, it is the very best officials who go to Brussels, the people who we are most keen on who go to Brussels.

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