Byers' spin doctor could face further investigation, ministers say

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The future of Jo Moore, special adviser to Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Transport, remained in the balance last night after John Prescott and Lord Macdonald of Tradeston both suggested that she could face further disciplinary action.

In evidence to the Commons Public Administration Committee, the Deputy Prime Minister said a full investigation would be launched if a civil servant made an official complaint against Ms Moore.

Lord Macdonald, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, added that it was now up to the Department for Transport to decide "what the course of action is next in terms of Jo Moore".

In a separate move, the Tories also kept up the pressure on the Government by opting to make the affair the subject of an Opposition Day debate in the Commons on Tuesday.

Mr Prescott repeated Tony Blair's insistence that Ms Moore should not be sacked because of her "stupid" e-mail about burying bad news on 11 September.

The Deputy Prime Minister added that as the memo was not in the view of Mr Byers and Mr Blair a sackable offence, "I have to go with that".

But when asked about claims that Ms Moore had bullied civil servants to brief against Bob Kiley, the Greater London Authority's Transport Commissioner, he did make clear that the special advisers' code of conduct ruled out political interference.

This was referring to claims that Alun Evans, director of communications in Mr Byers' department, had been moved because of a clash with Ms Moore on the issue.

Mr Prescott said: "I agree serious matters should be investigated. Any direction of a civil servant in an improper way is a serious matter."

He said an inquiry would be held if an official complaint was lodged about Ms Moore's conduct by a civil servant.

Mr Blair said at Prime Minister's Question Time on Wednesday said that the matter was "closed" as far as he was concerned, but Lord Macdonald left open the possibility of further action.

"I understand that the Secretary of State reprimanded Jo Moore and formal action was taken by the Permanent Secretary," Lord Macdonald said. "It is now for that department to decide what the course of action is next in terms of Jo Moore."