Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, has admitted that it was only through an internet advertisement that he discovered Sir Christopher Meyer was preparing to publish his memoirs.
Sir Christopher's colourful account of his time as ambassador to Washington has embarrassed ministers, who have accused him of breaking the trust between civil servants and politicians. They have called for him to resign as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.
Mr Straw reopened the war of words with Sir Christopher last night by announcing new controls on diplomats writing books and accusing him of keeping the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the dark over his plans to publish DC Confidential.
The Foreign Secretary said: "There was no prior consultation by the author with the FCO before he entered into a commitment with a publisher and began writing. Following the appearance of a trailer for the book on the Amazon website in May, Sir Christopher was contacted by the FCO, reminded of the publication rules and repeatedly asked to submit his text to the department when completed."
In a Commons written answer, Mr Straw said the book was only submitted to the Government for approval on 7 October, five weeks before its publication. Mr Straw said changes were not demanded in the text because of the "high threshold" required to demonstrate that Diplomatic Service regulations had been broken.
Mr Straw said the case suggested that the current rules, which depended on "norms of conduct and behaviour rather than laws", were not effective. He said he planned to change the rules governing diplomats' memoirs to ensure they better protected confidences within government.Reuse content