Byers 'forced out' top civil servant in row over spin

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Indy Politics

The Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Byers, forced a senior civil servant out of his job for refusing to co-operate with a campaign to discredit Bob Kiley, London's transport commissioner, according to Whitehall sources.

Alun Evans, the Department of Transport's communications director, was told by Jo Moore, Mr Byers' "spin doctor", to release sensitive information about Mr Kiley. Mr Evans declined, arguing that Ms Moore was trying to use him for party political purposes. Ms Moore told Mr Byers of his refusal and Mr Evans was moved to another job.

Ms Moore was reprimanded by Mr Byers on Tuesday after The Independent revealed she had urged colleagues to rush out embarrassing news under cover of the 11 September attacks. Her e-mail, sent within an hour of the second hijacked plane hitting the World Trade Centre, said: "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?"

Cracks were appearing in government unity over the incident, with the Home Secretary, David Blunkett calling the e-mail "extraordinarily stupid" and distancing himself from Mr Byers' conduct."It's up to Stephen Byers to discipline his staff and I know the lesson has been learnt not only by Jo Moore but by everyone else who believes they can act in that way," he told BBC Radio's Today programme.

The Tories believe Ms Moore's actions breached the unofficial truce between the main political parties. Tim Collins, the shadow Cabinet Office Minister, demanded public assurances that no minister had ordered that "bad news" announcements be brought forward to minimise publicity after the attacks on America.

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