Parliament & Politics: I'm no Waugh says diplomat

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A SENIOR diplomat behaved like someone "out of Evelyn Waugh" when he responded to a Briton's complaint by firing off an angry letter to the man's boss, a Commons select committee was told yesterday.

Sir David Gore-Booth, the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was heavily criticised in an ombudsman's report after Paul Surtees, a British Aerospace employee in the country, lost his job. The diplomat, who left the service recently, found himself under attack from the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, where MPs criticised a letter he wrote in 1994 to BAe's chief executive after Mr Surtees complained about the consular service. In it, Sir David referred to Mr Surtees as "one of yours".

Rhodri Morgan, the Labour chairman of the committee, told Sir David: "That comes straight out of Evelyn Waugh and I find it extremely disturbing."

Sir David replied: "I have made it the business of my career not to act like Evelyn Waugh." Sir David said Mr Surtees was working on the pounds 20bn al-Yamamah arms contract on behalf of the Government, so hehad a right to pass comment.

Sir John Kerr, the head of the diplomatic service, said that the incident was "disgraceful." Ambassadors had been issued with guidelines, telling them to keep any complaints confidential, he added.