Examination of witness (Questions 20 -
TUESDAY 12 MAY 1998
20. I perhaps have greater faith in a Scottish
Parliament. I am quite sure that the Scottish Parliament, driven
by a Scottish Labour Government, will legislate for devolved matters
in relation to freedom of information. My problem is that we actually
have an administrative difficulty at this point in time because
plainly, as a result of the timing of the bringing into force
of the Scottish Parliament and the fact that we will have a very
big legislative burden in a whole range of matters, it will physically
not be possible for them to address this issue. I am very concerned
that because there is a general consensus across the Labour Government
that this is a good thing and you certainly think it is a good
thing, you as a government and as a government Minister think
about how we bridge this administrative problem of having legislation
which we think is a good thing and I am sure the Scottish Parliament
would think is a good thing but they may not physically have the
time or the priority to devote to it purely because of this unusual
situation where they have just been set up. That is the issue
that I would like addressed because there is no dispute as I understand
it that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to legislate
about devolved matters and I am perfectly confident in their powers
and their interests in doing that. My only concern is that they
will not necessarily get to this immediately just because of practical
difficulties. We want to be able to consider how we can help the
Scottish Parliament in some way to put this in place and then
they can change it or do what they like with it once it is in
(Dr Clark) I see the point. Let me assure you,
we have got into this Pentlands problem, if I may call it that,
for the simple reason that we as a British Parliament have really
felt that we wanted to give this responsibility and this choice
to the Scottish Parliament, but I do see the difficulty which
you are in. When this Committee has the opportunity to look at
the draft Bill it may want to make suggestions and we will certainly
look at the suggestions. One suggestion could well be that the
operation of the Freedom of Information Act of this Westminster
Parliament could apply to all affairs in Scotland until such time
as the Scottish Parliament takes a decision (and the details could
be worked out) to change it. There is no reason why that should
not be done. I have considerable sympathy; I have a completely
open mind on that issue but I think it would be a very useful
role for this Committee and perhaps you may well want to see what
other views are. In fact, with respect, you are only one Scottish
Member of Parliament; we do not know the views of the other Scottish
Members even of this Westminster Parliament. As I say, I have
an open mind on this particular issue and certainly I would not
go to the stake on it.
21. Could I move on to one other very important
issue which I know you are very interested in. I would like to
know whether you could give us any information about the main
focus and principal themes which are likely to come out of the
Better Government initiative.
(Dr Clark) What I want to try and do is to start
from where I basically said before of trying to re-invent government
in a sense, as I have said, from the eyes of the ordinary citizen.
I hope I have tried to indicate that I see that not merely as
an administrative effort. I think it is quite critical, politically
as well, because I am still a believer in representative democracy
and I think that is still very important. Yet we have got, as
I said in my reply to Mr Bradley, to take into account modern
ways of communicating with people, modern ways of working with
people, and yet we must be very careful because when we were having
a discussion about this issue in one of our many thinking sessions
in the department and we were talking about consultation with
interest groups, with focus groups almost, it was pointed out
to me by a Member of this House, "You have got to be a bit
careful about this, you know, because I had an experience in my
constituency where the police were being encouraged to work very
closely with this particular group of people. The trouble was,
this group of people were well known felons and villains but they
had set themselves up as a self-appointed group of people as spokesmen."
It does actually raise in a very graphic way the difficulties
one can get in. Of course focus groups are one thing but if one
wants to involve pressure groups, one wants to involve interest
groups, that is part of the core and source of democracy but at
the end of the day it is our total judgement of what is good for
the local community and the country as a whole that we must try
and do. I see us over the next decade or so completely reforming
the way we deliver government services and I actually believe
government services do interact and interplay with the interest
in the democratic process. I see IT as quite critical in that.
Let me also make the point that I am very aware that there are
people in this country who find IT difficult and as far as
22. You are looking at one now!
(Dr Clark) I am sure that is not the case. What
we have always got to make sure is that the paper alternative
is there in the foreseeable feature and as a government we are
committed to that because we have got to make sure people are
comfortable with government. All that we are basically doing is
trying to redesign government so that we are doing business with
our citizens in a manner that is comfortable and convenient to
them. I described it as a "quiet revolution". One of
the first things I didand I hope it was based on experience
and intuitionwas to scrap the Deregulation Unit. I did
not do that out of any perverse political reason, it was because
I felt that if I was going to move towards this light touch government
I had to accept that we needed regulations. I wanted to cut as
much red tape as I possibly could because it is a burden on the
state. About four per cent of the GDP of the European Union is
taken up in trying to follow up regulations. We do need regulations.
Half of us would have been dead of food poisoning if we did not
have regulations on food hygiene, but regulations must be focused,
simple and understandable. It is all very well us cutting red
tape in Britain if we have not tackled the problem in Brussels.
The main issue of my presidency event has been how we try and
simplify European regulations which are taking over more and more
of our lives. I realised that as one Minister in a six month period
I was not going to have great success, so I did a bit of lateral
thinking and I tied in the Austrian government to take on the
presidency after us and although one cannot be as sure as one
can with the Austrians because there were elections intervening,
I have also had negotiations with the German Minister so that
they will take it up as well and we are making approaches to the
Finns. So I hope to have an 18-month bash at trying to simplify
cutting the European red tape, the very practical things that
come up. We have won the argument. There will now be business
panels where when certain regulations are emanating from Brussels
affecting businesses we will test them outthis is perhaps
Mr Bradley's point about engaging with citizens, tooon
panels of business people at national level. There is no reason
why that should not be involved with consumers as well. It is
a way of engaging people at European level as well.
23. First of all, can I associate myself
with the remarks that Peter began with about the valuable work
of freedom of information. Just on the Deregulation Unit and the
forms which you have created on pensions, can I just in passing
point out that it was to the Deregulation Unit that Francis Maude
passed the forms that his wife received when she decided to employ
a nanny. They were over an inch and a half thick. Those forms
have been dramatically simplified. That was the work of the Deregulation
Unit. Some of the efforts that you are trying to put into that
and other areas are things which the Deregulation Unit have achieved.
I would like to ask you about your role as Minister for the Civil
Service. There is deep concern in parts of the Civil Service about
politicisation of the Civil Service. The number of special advisers
and political appointments in Whitehall has more than doubled
since the last Administration and it has increased since the election
a year ago. The tendency is always of a ratchet in this area,
for the numbers of advisers to increase. Mrs Thatcher began her
term in 1979 with seven political appointees and when she resigned
she bequeathed about 35 political advisers and when the Conservatives
left it was about 50. There have been widespread allegations that
there has been some politicisation of the Government Information
Service which has formed part of the reason for this Committee
deciding to launch an inquiry into it. Are you also concerned
about politicisation of the Civil Service?
(Dr Clark) I am, but I do not accept your premise.
I think it is very very important that the integrity of the Civil
Service is maintained. I take the view that they have been a great
asset. I do not think in any other country there could have been
as smooth and as seamless a change as took place last May. It
was a credit to the quality and the integrity of the Civil Service
and I know that you know my views on that and I emphasise that.
The Prime Minister made it quite clear to Sir Robin Butler at
the time that that was the Government's view. It is very important
that that integrity is maintained. It is very important that recruitment
is on merit and we are constantly championing that. As far as
your specific issue about specialist advisers is concerned, it
was partly because we believed in the integrity of the Civil Service
that we specifically said that three postsand only two
have been utilized by an Order in Councilcould in fact
be "political appointments" and, of course, that is
for the Prime Minister's Chief Press Adviser, Alistair Campbell,
and for the Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell. We have never hidden
that. We thought that was right and that is what people expected
in the modern world. Equally, we always said that we felt that
one of the weaknesses of the previous government was that they
were lacking a strategic approach, that one of the difficulties
it had was being buffeted from pillar to post in a fire fighting
capacity. We felt it was very very important that there should
be a strategic role at the centre available to the Prime Minister
and at another level available to Ministers so that they could
maintain their strategic thinking. One of the problems of running
in Parliament is that you perhaps become overwhelmed almost but
certainly become involved purely with the day-to-day running of
departments and of the country. Of course, we have gone ahead
and we have made the appointments and, as you say, it is considerably
more than was under the previous administration. I think the total
number now is 65 at the moment. That is right across government
and it includes rather specialist appointments as well.
24. The newspapers are full of the extraordinary
story that officials in the Foreign Office sat on a very important
document which led Foreign Office Ministers subsequently to mislead
the House of Commons on an important issue. I wonder whether low
morale might be part of the problem. Somebody somewhere must have
breached the Civil Service Code. The Civil Service Code says that
"it is the duty of civil servants to make all information
relevant to a decision available to Ministers". I am assuming
that Ministers are telling the truth. Clearly all information
was not made available to Ministers in this case. I used to work
in the Treasury, on the gossip channels, they still exist, I hear
of very low morale in the Treasury. I hear that the traditional
advisory structure, the structure by which decisions are normally
arrived at, has been bypassed almost entirely by this Chancellor.
I do not think anybody is really denying that the introduction
of a team of outside advisers has had this effect on decision
making. It appears that to some degree something similar has been
going on in the Foreign Office. Do you agree with Robin Cook's
criticism of officials when he said in the House of Commons, "It
is unsatisfactory that Mr Lloyd, the Minister, was put in the
despatch box in Parliament to speak to the House without being
informed that a Customs & Excise investigation had been requested.
This was unfair to the Minister of State and unfair to Parliament"?
Do you agree with that view?
(Dr Clark) I said 65; it is 63 full-time staff.
Perhaps I could just correct that. On your major point, we have
got to remember, of course, that all we are seeing at the moment
are Sandline's solicitors' allegations. We have not really heard
the reply to that.
25. I was just discussing the fact that
the Customs & Excise investigation had been notified to the
Foreign Office in early March but was not notified to Ministers
in the Foreign Office for over a month, as a result of which Parliament
was misled. So this information sat in the Foreign Office somewhere
without it being passed on. I am asking you whether you agree
with Robin Cook that this was an unsatisfactory state of affairs?
(Dr Clark) You are quoting to me what the Foreign
Secretary said in the House of Commons. I really think it is premature
for us to make any judgment. Clearly I support the words which
the Foreign Secretary has said. He is speaking for the Government.
At the end of the day, we have a full investigation going on,
we have the inquiry and I think it is really premature for me,
who has no access and I am not sure of the workings of the Foreign
Office, to make any comment on it. We have the inquiry set up.
We are going to have the result as soon as possible and I think
then we can make a judgment. I am not doubting for one moment
that you have been told what you have been told, but certainly
all the evidence we have is that morale in the public service,
including the Civil Service, is higher now than it has been for
a long time, but I am not saying that there are not individual
instances where that may not be the case.
Mr Tyrie: What appears
to have happened is that a special adviser finally spotted this
piece of information and walked across St James's Park to Carlton
Terrace, where the Foreign Secretary was, to advise him of the
full horror of what was going on. Having worked in Whitehall,
I find it all absolutely incredible. In fact, I have not yet met
any spokesman or heard anybody saying in publicGeorge Walden
was on television last night and he was broadly sympathetic to
the Government's position, but on this issue he was very clearsay
that he thought it was conceivable that a Private Secretary would
have sat on this document and that he would not have alerted his
Minister to it. I think that morale has been affected. I think
that the way decisions have been taken has been changed in Whitehall
quite sharply over the past year.
Mr Bradley: So what?
Mr Campbell: He is
living in the past. We have got a new Labour government. We are
living in the future now. We are doing things differently.
26. We are questioning the Minister here,
not taking comments from other parts of the Committee. I am concerned
that there appears to have been a change in the way the Civil
Service is operating and a politicisation of the Civil Service.
What I am suggesting is that that politicisation may be partly
responsible for what appears, at the very least, to have been
what Foreign Office officials privately are reported as describing
as a "monumental cock-up" in their department. I think
there is a strong case for a Minister for the Civil Service like
yourself having a bigger role in being able to articulate the
concerns of senior officials and they should have another port
of call other than the Head of the Civil Service or the Prime
Minister, which technically are the only people they can go to.
They should be able to come to your office, but they do not, as
I understand it from what you have told me. Have you had any representations
on any of these issues? Have you had any complaints from anybody
about politicisation or about low morale, because I can assure
you that they are very widespread?
(Dr Clark) The short answer to your latter point
is no. I did note that your whole case was based on it appears
that the thing was discovered by a political adviser spotting
it; you thought so and so happened; it appears to have changed.
27. Robin Cook has made these remarks. Robin
Cook makes it clear that the special adviser alerted him to the
letter from Sandline. He made that clear in his statement in the
House last week.
(Dr Clark) I understand that. I am trying to use
these words of yours.
28. I do not want to impugn Robin Cook.
(Dr Clark) I understand what you are saying. I
am trying to use these words of yours to reinforce my point that
there is an inquiry. The full results will be published. I think
it could prejudice the Customs investigation if I made detailed
comments. I think we have got the inquiry and the best thing to
do is to await the result.
29. What about your role in the Civil Service
and protecting their interests?
(Dr Clark) If the Code has been abused there is
a very clear way in which that is adhered to. One of the points
which I have always found, we might call it "Clark's iron
law of politics", is that once you solve one problem you
create another problem. One of the difficulties we have is that
the previous Administration, for all the best reasons, actually
created the huge silos of independent departments with very very
little horizontal linkage and those departments are like huge
baronies reporting to one centre which is the Prime Minister.
I would suggest that the changes that have been made for all the
good reasons by the previous Administration, to try and drive
up standards, to try and liberate people, have created other problems.
One of the issues I am trying to wrestle with and why I have argued
that I have needed a strategic management system at the centre
as well as strategic policies was to try and start driving some
horizontal links at the top across these silos in order that I
can eventually deliver services to the ordinary citizen across
departments and at one-stop shops. All I am saying is I hear what
you are saying but at this moment in time I have no locus in this.
30. I was slightly concerned I was going
to take you away from your direct responsibilities, but after
the last line of questioning I am sure I am spot on target with
the area I want to cover. I want to return somewhat to the area
of IT and the comments that you were making earlier. I would like
to add my support, before I start on this line of questioning,
to the comments that Peter Bradley and others have made about
the Freedom of Information White Paper and all of the work that
is going on in the department, particularly on the side of improving
things for the general public because that side of things is what
we are here for, at the end of the day. I am interested to see
the things that you said in your report to us on the first year
of the Office's work. I am also interested in what is in "The
Government's Expenditure Plans 1998-99" for the Cabinet Office,
Privy Council Office and others on IT and I want to think about
some of the comments that you were making about how we can actually
make progress and what a watershed point we are at at the moment
on this. In that connection I am wondering about how much the
vision that you have may be at the risk of faltering if departments
do not have sufficient investment in IT nor sufficient links and
really at a more fundamental level than perhaps we are achieving
at the moment. I am looking through all the documents and I do
not see anything that really picks up the reflection of what seems
to me the priority of this ultimately for much of what we want
to do and for efficient government, nor does it seem to have the
strategic drive behind it that you would expect to see if, as
I suspect, we need more than these very good things looking at
individual isolated areas and an overview across departments about
how they work together. There are one or two things in particular
that strike me as areas where cross-departmental work is going
to be central, the sorts of things we might want to do for women,
for example, where government departments are able to work on
the same problem in different departments, the Exclusion Unit,
things like the Healthier Nation Green Paper which is also going
to provide a lot of opportunities for other services to contribute
to a healthier nation. I do not see how at the moment, given the
low volume that this is taking place at, we are actually going
to move into a full gear drive forward on getting the kind of
investment and the kind of capacity that we need across departments.
You can go out anywhere and talk to people in health authorities
who have no equipment for communicating with GPs. The Crown Prosecution
Service have had leftover computers handed on to them from the
Inland Revenue. All of these things contribute to a lot of the
things that we want to do in government. I look at this and I
think there is something fundamental missing from it at the moment
and I would like your comments on that.
(Dr Clark) I share your general thesis. One of
the things that shook me more than anything else, once I had learnt
what the Chancellor of the Duchy did 12 months ago, was to find
that government departments could not communicate with each other
electronically. That was part and parcel of one of the problems
that had arisen out of giving greater freedom to the departments.
What was virtually said was, "Those are your objectives,
that is your budget, get on and do it." It meant that each
department chose the IT which suited them and gave them value
for money as an individual organisation, but it had the downside
that there was no means of communicating it across government.
I immediately started trying to put that right and was very pleased
to launch about a month ago the Government Secure Intranet. The
technology is there. It is only the will and the security that
is lacking. Security is a major problem in government because
if we in the Government hold personal information about people
it is vital that it does not get out. Therefore, there were difficulties
there, although they were not insuperable ones and we had to make
sure that the fire walls were safe. We now have a Government Secure
Intranet. We had people trying to hack into it. We showed them
how it worked and they tried again to hack into it. So far they
have been unsuccessful. We are very confident that material up
to restricted level will be able to be on that government intranet.
I am not prepared to allow departments just to hook up to it because
you only need a weak department and the fire walls are broken,
so they have got to be accredited. I have got to go through the
system to ensure they have got the necessary security. We have
got seven departments hooked up and we hope to have all the departments
hooked up by the end of the year. That means that for the first
time ever we will be able to get communication across government
electronically, even departments will be able to e.mail each other.
There are departments that cannot e-mail even within the department.
It was a lamentable state of affairs that we have put right. We
intend to upgrade that. Probably within the next two or three
weeks I will be launching XGSI, which is a more secure part of
the GSI. I do not know the figures because the figures have not
been worked out, but I think we are talking about 90-odd per cent
of government papers will be able to be transmitted on the Government
Secure Intranet. I would submit that that is a base upon which
we can truly modernize our system of government. In addition,
we have an access system which allows us to manage the business
of government, to get some coordinated fashion, to try and bring
together and link together the various silos. You then raised
another point about sharing information and you mentioned the
women's unit and that sort of thing. I have commissioned some
research into this because if we are going to share information
we must be absolutely certain that we are complying with the law
and with data protection and there are clauses in the Social Security
Bill and the Home Office Bill going on at the moment which will
take care of that, but we must not fall foul of the law in this
respect. The initial findings are that the overwhelming majority
of people are very happy for government to share information within
departments and across their departments. I think by using IT
we have got the facility to do that now. We have got a situation
now where on average each individual's name is held by government
on 132 different occasions and it really does not make sense.
One reason why we have got to fill in so many forms is that you
fill in a form for one department or one section of a department
and it is not shared to another department. That is another on-going
problem we are going to solve just to emphasise, Chairman, the
holistic approach I am trying to take on this. Mr Shepherd would
have jumped on me if I did not make the point that if we hold
information on behalf of a citizen then that citizen must have
the right of access to that information and to correct that information
if it is incorrect. That is in the Data Protection Act and certainly
will be in our Freedom of Information Act. There is always the
fear of big brother, I understand that and it is a balance you
have got to take at the end of the day and we are trying to get
that balance right, but we have got to take our citizens with
31. I asked you about the strategy and I
do not think you have really addressed that question sufficiently
to answer the point I am making. At the moment departments seem
to be able to do their own thing largely, particularly in the
provision of IT, the capacity. I am interested in the exchange
of management information rather than individualised because it
is the management information that will enable us to build up
a picture of what the problems are and how different departments
can contribute to solving them and to do so rapidly and effectively.
I do not see that making fast progress at the moment and I do
not see that there is a strategy behind the activities.
(Dr Clark) I think you are quite right. The present
situation is that every department is sovereign to itself at the
moment in what technology it requires. That is one of the downsides
of enhanced and empowering departments. As I say, these are the
problems which we saw previously. That is one reason that drove
me to argue way back last September that just as we have strategic
policies, strategic communications, we needed strategic management.
I am very keen that we push that forward. I think it can be done
by ensuring that departments are, for example, hooked up onto
the GSI because that means that they have got to be technologically
compatible with other departments. That is a way to try and do
it rather laterally, to try and keep the benefits of independence
yet at the same time changing the culture. I believe that a new
strategic management centre will in itself reinforce the cultural
change that is going to have to take place. On top of that we
have got the millennium bug resolution issue. As you know, I have
taken the lead in our public services of late and what has been
interesting, as we have tried to develop that, is that the technological
obsolescence is very very rapid in this field and I cannot remember
the precise figure at the moment, but the sheer replacement of
obsolescence technology does mean that you change the equipment
very quickly indeed. The figures which I have got indicate that
we are on course for massive changes within central government.
This is taking place at a time when the whole culture is to make
sure that you have got technological compatibility.
32. So is the answer on strategy that there
is nothing driving it at the moment but that you have hopes that
something will be in place shortly to drive it?
(Dr Clark) Yes. It is my belief and wish that
we push that forward. I think in a sense the infrastructure which
we have got with GSI, which means departments in themselves cannot
operate effectively without a strategy, will force departments
into the general central government strategy of making sure that
we do have these technical links right across government. I have
concentrated largely at the centre to start with and the belief
that unless we get the centre right we cannot deliver it down
at the bottom down out in your constituency and mine.
33. The House of Commons and Parliament
is still living in the dark ages with regard to IT and obviously
we have to put our own House in order quite literally in every
other sense, but there is also the question about how we interface
with government departments here and I wonder whether your department
has looked at that in any way?
(Dr Clark) Yes. Generally I am concerned about
the lack of understanding on both sides between Westminster and
Whitehall. I just make this point generally. I have taken the
initiative of trying to have civil servants attached to Members
of Parliament but handled in a non-political way which will start
building bridges, trying to ensure that in the training programme
they actually have some experience within the House of Commons.
That is one side of it. The other side is I think we have got
to be much less stuffy in Whitehall and there are all sorts of
problems of accountability we have got to try and overcome, but
I think we have got to start building bridges. Any ideas which
members have on the IT side I would be very keen to try and develop.
I think we could still develop a relationship without actually
in any way challenging the separation of powers edict of Montescue.
I think the potential is there.
34. In the past when we discussed the freedom
of information there was the possibility that officials would
be able to doctor computer files preventing the disclosure of
embarrassing information. I am just wondering if you have had
a look at that. I know this was put to you at one time. Can anything
be done to stop it because it seems as though it can be done at
this moment in time?
(Dr Clark) It is suggested in the White Paper
that it would be an offence for anyone to destroy a document,
and a document includes a computer file in this respect. The more
difficult problem we had was actually the problem which you raised
in a sense, the issue of the yellowI cannot remember
what you called it.
35. Yellow peril.
(Dr Clark) That is right. That is a much more
difficult one because they will just peel off. We have addressed
the problems and what we are saying is that people have the right
to have access to copies of the document and that means computer
printouts, films, photographs and it would be an offence to destroy
36. The problem arose with the security
services when it was suggested that files on individualsthere
was one in particular who was not very happymight all be
destroyed and they were going to be wiped off the computer and
destroyed in case the freedom of information allowed them to get
that information which those services had on them and the same
applies to computers. It is a worrying aspect that now, before
the Bill comes in, information and individuals in some departments
could be thrown in the Thames.
(Dr Clark) There is a code at the moment. Clearly
that is not supposed to happen. That is one reason why we want
to put it on a statutory basis.
37. The Lord Chancellor at the Campaign
for Freedom of Information Awards said that the draft Bill should
be ready some time in the summer. I wonder if you can be a little
bit more precise about that?
(Dr Clark) Yes. I understand why. I did actually
deal with this before and I have made the point that it is my
intention that we have the Bill before you. It is a tight timescale.
We have never hidden this. It is incredibly complicated. It is
my aim to try and get it to you before the summer recess so you
have time to have a look at it. We are on course for that. I have
got the timetable, it is very tight, but there is no reason why
we should not meet it.
38. You know about the exclusions that we
have been very concerned about such as the police, but through
the Data Protection Act amendments have been moved in respect
of the Inland Revenue and the police and that was deleted in the
Lords and the Government is putting another amendment in. Are
you not convinced by the arguments being rather more on the side
of ACPO in terms of the police? I do not see why they should have
an exclusion. How are you making progress on that?
(Dr Clark) Let me make the general point. I have
dealt with a little bit of this earlier on. These are the points
which in detail will come up in your recommendation. The issue
of police exclusion is something that we have been trying to wrestle
with. I think it has been overcome. It is the question of politicisation
of the issue, of what you include and what you exclude and it
is how you define it. It is whether you define them both or whether
you define one and we are wrestling with that problem at the moment
and it is one of the outstanding issues. I do not see any reason
why it should not be overcome.
39. I think certainly you and three or four
of us were here during the Scott Inquiry and for the first time
we began to see the workings of Whitehall laid bare and I guess
one of the tests will begovernment departments are often
driven by these punctuation marksto what extent freedom
of information will cover the sort of information that we are
beginning to get out of the Foreign Office in terms of internal
memos and things like that. Do you envisage that this will be
a much more open process within perhaps one of the most secret
of all departments, for obvious reasons, of course, the Foreign
(Dr Clark) We feel it is difficult for discussions
to take place in a goldfish bowl. There are disagreements about
what is a goldfish bowl. We have also said, and I hope we have
shown it, we are prepared to publish background papers. We published
the background papers for the first time ever on the Freedom of
Information White Paper and that will continue to be our policy.
We are talking about something cultured and it is something which
will change over time. One is not able to do it for various reasons,
but the one thing I liked about the New Zealand legislation is
in its long title they had the word progressive, implying not
that it was radical but that over a period of time the culture
will change and people will feel more comfortable about releasing
information. Also, I hope the argument can be won in the sense
that the release of more information does not necessarily lead
to bad government. I think it is going to be a gradual cultural
thing and I am quite certain that, whilst we may think the freedom
of information is a quantum jump, as I believe it is a quantum
jump from what we have got now, over time there will be people
who are dissatisfied with the amount of freedom even under that.
40. I wish you well on that. I had hoped
that the Scott Inquiry and the documents that came out and were
published for the world to view would have affected some of the
culture of the Foreign Office and I think this is part of the
difficulty. I am a bit taken aback when it seems that Ministers
seem to have been kept in the dark. I accept the point that you
are making, that an inquiry is in progress.
(Dr Clark) I do take your point. I think the inquiry
has got two dimensions. One is the dimension of this particular
problem and the other is the bigger dimension which you raise.
41. Thank you very much, Dr Clark, for coming
and staying ten minutes beyond your originally allotted time.
You are the Minister for the Civil Service, but, unusually, you
have come without any civil servants this morning on the front
table with you and assisting you. You have also bared your soul
to us quite considerably as well. I think it has been an extremely
stimulating session and we have tried out this innovation of you
as the Chairman of the Board or the Chief Executive giving a report
to the shareholders as well and we may see how well that goes
in the rest of Whitehall. Thank you very much for the session
of evidence in morning.
(Dr Clark) Thank you.