The Prime Minister's adviser on Ministers' interests: independent or not? - Public Administration Committee Contents


Formal Minutes


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Members present:

Mr Bernard Jenkin, in the Chair
Paul Flynn

Robert Halfon

David Heyes

Kelvin Hopkins

Priti Patel

Lindsay Roy

Draft Report (The Prime Minister's adviser on Ministers' interests: independent or not?), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Draft Report (The Prime Minister's adviser on Ministers' interests), proposed by Paul Flynn, brought up and read as follows:

1. Further investigations are essential into the allegations arising out of the Fox-Werritty affair. The conclusion to be drawn by the evidence of Sir Philip Mawer and Sir Christopher Kelly is that the Prime Minister may have broken the Ministerial code in not calling for the only enforcer of the code to undertake the investigation. There is powerful evidence that using Sir Gus O'Donnell to carry out the swift investigation was a decision taken to hide the whole truth in order to satisfy political expediency and avoid political embarrassment to the Coalition. The Ministerial Code clearly restricts the role of investigation of breaches in the Ministerial Code to the Independent Adviser.

2. Establishing the role of the Independent Adviser is a reform that is the culmination of continuous work by this Committee and others since 1999. It has been used once in Shahid Malik's case and ab-used once in this case. The value of this reform is now under threat because of the Prime Minister's failure to instigate a full investigation without a restrictive timetable.

3. The issue under consideration is not a trivial one. It is claimed that the former Secretary of State for Defence was operating a private defence policy under the influence of Adam Werritty who was himself under the influence of his paymasters from right wing neo-con groups in the United States. Liam Fox was conducting a policy on Sri Lanka which was not entirely in accord with government policy: it is possible that he may have been conducting a policy with Israel which was also not in accord with government policy. If that allegation proves to be true it could well lead to an acceleration of a process in which Britain could stumble to an avoidable war with Iran. That could lead to similar dire consequences to those of the wars in Iraq and Helmand which lead to the deaths of 179 and 404 British soldiers. The past Secretary of State should not be allowed to escape a full investigation because of his resignation. These matters are of such importance to the nation and the conduct of future ministers that they require, not the botched brief probe conducted by Sir Gus O'Donnell, but a full thorough analysis and judgement of the alleged conduct of the past Secretary of State for Defence and its possible consequences.

4. The extraordinary events surrounding the resignation of Sir Philip Mawer and the unannounced appointment of his successor require explanation. Paul Flynn wrote a letter to Sir Philip and was surprised to receive a reply from Sir Alex Allen. It may be unprecedented for a change of role to take place with such extraordinary secrecy and subterfuge. It's a reasonable conclusion that the Government intention was to conceal the resignation and the new appointment to avoid unfavourable publicity.

5. The matters that still remain for further investigation are:

  • The alleged breach of the Ministerial Code by the Prime Minister
  • A full legitimate investigation into the alleged conduct of Liam Fox and Adam Werritty without the time constraints imposed on the Sir Gus O'Donnell report
  • Revival of PASCs previous plea for the Independent Adviser to be appointed only after the pre-appointment hearing
  • The need to ensure that no further investigation is restricted in scope and duration by the resignation of the accused party.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Chair's draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.—(The Chair.)

Amendment proposed, to leave out "Chair's draft Report" and insert "draft Report proposed by Paul Flynn".—(Paul Flynn)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.

Ayes, 2

Paul Flynn

Kelvin Hopkins

Noes, 4

Robert Halfon

David Heyes

Priti Patel

Lindsay Roy

Another Amendment proposed, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and add "this Committee declines to read the draft Report a second time because its conclusions are defective with several omissions, as a result of the lack of a convincing response to the claim that Sir Gus O'Donnell's report commented on only two meetings between Liam Fox, Adam Werritty and unspecified Israelis and not the five that took place, the lack of a Committee investigation into the role of the Permanent Secretary Ursula Brennan in failing to report to higher authority the internal concerns in the Defence department, and the Committee's failure to call Liam Fox, Adam Werritty and Ursula Brennan to supply what could have been illuminating evidence under cross-examination; and notes that while a Select Committee cannot conduct an investigation to rival that of the Independent Adviser, the value of the Committee's conclusion would have been strengthened by information from the those principally involved in an alleged suppression of the truth of the conduct of Liam Fox." instead thereof.—(Paul Flynn)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.

Ayes, 2

Paul Flynn

Kelvin Hopkins

Noes, 3

Robert Halfon

Priti Patel

Lindsay Roy

Main Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Chair's draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 63 read and agreed to.

Summary agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report be the Twenty Second Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chair make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available, in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 134.

Written evidence was ordered to be reported to the House for printing with the Report.

[Adjourned till Tuesday 20 March at 4.00 pm



 
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Prepared 17 March 2012