Letter: How to make ministers and civil servants accountable

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The Independent Online
From Mr Humphry Crum Ewing

Sir: The Scott report points out (p1,799) that the Howe Guidelines of December 1984 were deliberately not disclosed in response to subsequent Parliamentary Questions.

Since these original guidelines were not disclosed, one must ask why Scott (and others) think it was so wrong of William Waldegrave not to have disclosed the changes made subsequently?

The evidence set out in the Scott report of the way in which officials in department after department were "economical with the truth", or worse, in the submissions that they put before ministers is deeply disturbing. Those really concerned about what has gone wrong with our constitutional processes will do better to look at this evidence of all-too-frequent usurptions of what are, correctly, matters of ministerial responsibility, suppressions of truth and even falsifications in which officials engaged behind the scenes, than they will be by hunting through its pages for high-profile ministerial scapegoats.

Above all, the Labour Party should recognise that this report is full of warning signs as to what officials will do to their ministers when they come into office.

Yours sincerely,

Humphry Crum Ewing

Reading, Berkshire

19 February