Select committees will demand Whitehall tape: Civil servants and clerks suspected of collusion over questioning
The video suggests collusion takes place between select committee clerks and civil servants over the questions to be asked by committee members, which threatens to undermine the integrity of the system.
Last month, a decision by the Public Accounts Committee to recall Sir Thomas Legg, Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's office, after he 'forgot' to tell a hearing about a letter from the Master of the Rolls protesting at cuts in legal aid eligibility, raised doubts about the openness of civil servants and their evidence to committees. The question of the video is certain to renew such doubts.
Frank Field, the Labour chairman of the Select Committee on Social Security, said: 'We need to ask to see that the video is made available to see what advice is given.'
The video, of a civil service seminar, shows Sir Bryan Hayes, former permanent secretary to the Department of Trade and Industry, advising civil servants not to give short 'yes' answers. 'I don't think it's a good idea to answer yes, because then they go straight on to another question and you are foxed again.' The use of coaching videos is standard practice for politicians. But a committee clerk is also quoted as saying that civil servants will be allowed to see the questions before they have to give evidence. She urges them 'not to give the lie to the game' by telling the committee they have seen the questions.
Michael Clark, former Tory chairman of the energy select committee, said: 'I would be surprised and dismayed if there was collusion between the select committees and the civil service.' He said he had wondered whether witnesses knew the questions in advance because they seemed very carefully prepared.
'I questioned my clerk on a regular basis. He always assured me that the questions had not been sent to the witnesses, although there had been some indication of the broad areas of questioning.'
But in the BBC television programme Scrutiny shown last Saturday, John Sweetman, the Clerk of Committees, said that the clerk had 'over- stated the practice'. The programme was told by Mr Sweetman that: 'It is quite common for witnesses to be given in advance questions which require lengthy, technical answers. In my experience it would be most unusual for witnesses to be given any advance notice of the precise questions.'
Mr Sweetman said he would not take any action, unless he knew that was happening. 'I am not going to conduct a witch-hunt.'
Leading article, page 17
- 1 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 3 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 4 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
Isis an hour away from Baghdad - with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin wedding: The famous congratulate actor and human rights lawyer after Venice nuptials
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >
£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...
£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...