Letter: How to make ministers and civil servants accountable

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The Independent Online
From Sir George Moseley

Sir: Your leading article, "The cost to us all if Waldegrave and Lyell survive" (17 February), admirably sets out the dilemma facing government backbenchers in the coming parliamentary debate on Scott. Are they to follow blindly the instructions of government whips, or are they to refuse to endorse a further denial of government accountability to Parliament and to the electorate beyond?

If they choose blind obedience, they will be signalling not just to ministers but also to the officials who prepare the draft answers to parliamentary questions and to ministerial correspondence, that the misleading of Members of Parliament can be acceptable conduct, if telling the full truth could risk embarrassment to both ministers and officials. What reliance are MPs then to place in future on the integrity of ministerial responses to questions posed on behalf of constituents? The news that one or two Tory backbenchers are critical of the Government's stance, so far, on the Scott report, is encouraging ("Rebel Tory MPs threaten Scott defeat", 19 February). It suggests that there could be a growing realisation that the action necessary to respond satisfactorily to Scott must not be determined merely by the Government's slender majority in the lobby, nor by undue sensitivity about whether or not a minister or two should be required to resign.

I am urging my own constituency MP to add his own voice to those of his Conservative colleagues who are concerned to safeguard the primacy of parliamantary democracy.

Yours faithfully,

George Moseley

Widdington, Essex

18 February