'The e-mail was a mistake... it was an error'

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The revelation that the Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Byers, removed a senior civil servant from his job for refusing to discredit Bob Kiley, London's transport commissioner, dominated the daily press briefing at Downing Street yesterday.

Alun Evans, the department's communications director, was moved for declining to release sensitive information on Mr Kiley. He was asked to do so by Jo Moore, the spin doctor who sent an e-mail suggesting the department should rush out "bad news" on the day of the US terrorist attacks.

These were among the questions put to Tony Blair's official spokesman by journalists:

Question: Does Jo Moore retain the confidence of the Prime Minister?

Answer: Ms Moore still has the confidence of Stephen Byers, and the Prime Minister has not changed his view of Mr Byers ... He also agrees with Mr Byers ­ as well as Ms Moore ­ the e-mail was a mistake. It had was error. That is why Ms Moore was reprimanded.

Question: Why was Alun Evans moved from his job in Mr Byers' department?

Answer: Mr Evans spent two years working in the Strategic Communications Unit in Downing Street prior to moving to the Department of Transport for another two years. He was returning to policy work and was doing a very important job in heading up the secretariat set up to assist the inquiry into the lessons to be learnt from the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Question: What about allegations that Mr Evans refused to discredit Mr Kiley?

Answer: It should not be a surprise that the Government had a policy disagreement with Mr Kiley. Pointing out where you disagree with someone does not amount to personal vilification ... If Mr Kiley interprets that as something else, that is a matter for Mr Kiley.

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