Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witness (Questions 20 - 41)

TUESDAY 12 MAY 1998

THE RT HON DR DAVID CLARK, MP

  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 place.
  (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——

Chairman

  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 did—and I hope it was based on experience and intuition—was 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 out—this is perhaps Mr Bradley's point about engaging with citizens, too—on 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.

Mr Tyrie

  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 posts—and only two have been utilized by an Order in Council—could 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 public—George Walden was on television last night and he was broadly sympathetic to the Government's position, but on this issue he was very clear—say 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.

Mr Tyrie

  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.

Miss Johnson

  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 us.

  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.

Mr Campbell

  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 yellow——I 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 that.

  36.  The problem arose with the security services when it was suggested that files on individuals—there was one in particular who was not very happy—might 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.

Mr Shepherd

  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 be—government departments are often driven by these punctuation marks—to 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 Office?
  (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.

Chairman

  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.


 
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