Sir Richard was given the option of transforming his inquiry into a formal one. He should have taken up this option. He should also have pressed for there to be three judges rather than one, or, alternatively, expert lay assessors with knowledge of the workings of government.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Salmon Commission declared that
a witness who has to be subjected to an inquisitorial form of enquiry should be accord the elementary right to be represented.
The right to be represented by council arises not because, as Marr suggests, "assorted ministers are retarded inarticulate souls, unable to speak for themselves", but because no witness is able to appreciate the totality of a highly complex picture, nor to test, through cross-examination, hostile evidence. Sir Richard, however, has chosen to interpret the Salmon guidelines "flexibly". The Government has also chosen to mount a running commentary during the inquiry. The combination of the roles of judge, detective and prosecutor is not one that inspires confidence.
Ministers can defend themselves publicly against unjust accusations. Civil servants - ignored in Andrew Marr's article - enjoy no such luxury and could find their careers ruined.
The writer is Reader in Government at Oxford University.Reuse content