Britain’s most senior civil servants should no longer be asked to investigate accusations of ministerial misconduct because they do not have the “powers” to get to the truth, the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Robin Butler, has suggested.
David Cameron has used the current Cabinet Secretary, Jeremy Heywood, to investigate claims of ministerial wrong-doing against two of his Cabinet colleagues – Andrew Mitchell and Liam Fox.
But speaking at an event organised by think-tank the Institute for Government, Sir Jeremy’s predecessor Lord Butler said such inquiries were “not a satisfactory way” of establishing the truth.
Lord Butler himself was asked to investigate two cases of potential ministerial misconduct: those of Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton. His reports cleared both Hamilton – who, it later emerged, had indeed accepted money for asking questions in Parliament – and Aitken, who had sought bribes for arranging arms deals.
Speaking to Civil Service World he said: “There are times when, if you’ve got to discover the facts, [someone] within government can do that, but the powers you’ve got are almost non-existent, except to ask people and decide whether you believe them or not.”