Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 15 JUNE 1999
GRANT CMG, MR
100. Mr Grant, we have just heard now that Andrew
was informed that this report, in its final form, was about to
be published. Did Andrew tell you that?
(Mr Grant) I think we already knew. I do not think
that the information about the date of its publication was new.
It may have been a confirmation of what we expected.
101. The question basically is: did Andrew tell
you that the report had been agreed in its final form?
(Mr Grant) Probably. I do not think I would have found
that particularly noteworthy. The fact that it had been agreed
was already known to us by open channels.
(Mr Grant) I am not sure. I think the Committee.
Mr Campbell-Savours: The Committee does
not inform you until it is set up the day before publication through
103. Mr Grant, as Principal Private Secretary,
you are, are you not, the main point of contact between the Secretary
of State and basically the rest of the department and other officials?
(Mr Grant) That is correct.
104. That would apply in both directions, would
(Mr Grant) Yes. Advice from officials to him and instructions
from the Secretary of State to the department.
105. You are also, are you not, responsible
for the overall conduct of ministerial private offices within
the department? You have a management role.
(Mr Grant) I have a direct management role for the
Secretary of State's private office. I am certainly available
to discuss issues with other private offices but the way things
work at present is that ministers of state themselves take a keen
interest in the management of their private offices. They do not
often consult me about it.
106. Indeed, but you are the line manager effectively.
(Mr Grant) I do not write the reports actually.
107. The point I am trying to make is that the
role you played at the time is a pivotal and crucial role with
regard to the Secretary of State and the support mechanism that
exists for the Secretary of State.
(Mr Grant) Certainly.
108. Therefore, you also have intimate contact
with the Secretary of State?
(Mr Grant) Certainly.
109. By the minute, by the hour and by the day.
(Mr Grant) Certainly by the day.
110. Would it not have occurred to you that,
when this unusual event happened that we have all agreed is not
only unusual but very important, in terms of the relationship
between a government department and the parliamentary process,
it would have seemed natural to mention it to the Secretary of
State if only because the Secretary of State is a distinguished
and experienced parliamentarian and might therefore have been
expected to have a view about the document, its appearance in
the department and perhaps might have some words of wisdom about
what should be done with the document?
(Mr Grant) You said, "Would it not"; it
should have, yes, I am afraid. If I had wanted to bring this document
to the Secretary of State's attention immediately, I could have
111. Presumably all of you see the difficulty
that the Committee is in here. Here we have a document important
to the department, fairly widely in circulation within the department
at senior level, at a level normally close to ministers and to
the Secretary of State, but we are being told that the Secretary
of State and other ministers are in ignorance of this document's
circulation within the department for a period of what would appear
to be at least two weeks and maybe nearly three weeks.
(Mr Grant) I see precisely that difficulty. I recognise
the virtually explicit point you are making, if I may say so.
I can give an explanation which is that I was treating this document
in terms of its operational relevance. There would be a time closer
to the date of publicationlet us assume, hypothetically,
it is a document which had no relationship to Parliament. The
time to have shown it to the Secretary of State would have been
in the week before the publication of the report. What I think
nowbut I of course defer to whatever view the Committee
reachesis that it is precisely the status of the document
that I made an inappropriate assumption about. I do understand
that you think it is strange but I was approaching this issue
from a different vantage point, a vantage point that I will certainly
not approach the same issue from again.
112. Mr Grant, you said that you felt it was
important you kept the confidence of the person who sent the document
to you. Why? This was someone who was in breach of parliamentary
rules. As a member of the executive, is it your role to protect
someone like that?
(Mr Grant) No. I see that now. The best answer I can
give is that, by analogythis is not meant to be an exact
comparison; it is an explanation rather than a justificationit
is not unheard of for officials in, say, other governments or
international organisations to show a Foreign Office official
a document in confidence. Before you say, "Yes, but the relationship
of the Foreign Office with Parliament is not the same as the relationship
of the Foreign Office with Government", I accept that entirely.
I am just saying that cases where we are shown documents in confidence
which somebody appears to believe they would have the right scope
and freedom to show us are not unique. What is unique is that
it should be a document of this status. I did think we must respect
the confidence of the person who passed it on and I did not think:
what this person has done is breach the rules and it is my responsibility
to rectify that. That position is now clear beyond peradventure.
113. You have a unique role because you are
the interface between the political head of the department and
the rest of the department. You have direct access both to the
Minister and to the Permanent Secretary. It is your job to alert
the Permanent Secretary if there is anything happening. We all
understand this flow of information takes place. If there is anything
in relation to the minister that could be dangerous to the department
and/or to the minister, you have a duty to inform him. It is one
of the reasons why you are there, is it not? Why did you not tell
the Permanent Secretary, if you did not tell the Minister?
(Mr Grant) In this case, I would have told the Secretary
of State. I would not have gone to the Permanent Secretary and
said, "I wonder whether I should tell the Secretary of State
about this." If I had thought that I should tell the Secretary
of State immediately for reasons we have already discussed
114. Would not the Permanent Secretary expect
to be alerted to the fact that the department was vulnerable?
You have this dual responsibility. It is a difficult role. That
is why people are carefully groomed for the job. Your job is to
keep the department out of trouble and to help to keep the Minister
out of trouble. If you did not feel it necessary to speak to the
Minister, since you say you recognised the sensitivity, surely
you should have told the Permanent Secretary?
(Mr Grant) I had not thought about that. It is an
entirely fair point. Perhaps I should have done.
115. We have three people saying they should
have done. You knew it was sensitive and you have said that. You
certainly knew the high sensitivity of it in relation to the press,
from your previous experience and as a political adviser you knew
it was sensitive. You could not tell the Minister that for three
weeks or two and a half weeks, whatever it was. He was so busy
you did not have a chance to talk to him. You chose not to for
your reasons and probably you did not feel it was your job to
tell the Minister since these two had a personal relationship.
Why did not either of you just put a three sentence note in the
Minister's red box?
(Mr Grant) Could I come back to give a more complete
answer to Mr Williams's last question? The reasons I did not alert
immediately the Permanent Secretary were the same reasons I did
not alert the Foreign Secretary. I go back to this vantage point
thing. I was not saying to myself, "Here we are, here the
department is now, vulnerable by virtue of its mere possession
of this document." Of course that was a factor but I was
not giving the kind of weight to it that I would have given before
this evidence session and all the more so after it. That is now
a very clear point. The Permanent Under-Secretary became aware
of it at a time close to the publication of the report, but I
think it was the same assumption and the same degree of consideration
of status that led me to act that way in both cases.
116. Mr Hood, you have a different role. You
are essentially responsible to the Minister and between you you
are the people who keep the Minister off the slippery ice. If
you two are not doing your job and if he does not know what is
going on, he could end up in trouble through no fault of his own.
Mr Hood, why did you not think it appropriate to put a three sentence
letter in his box saying you had received this?
(Mr Hood) I did think I was doing my job and I did
consider the guidance on what we should do very carefully. It
is not the case that I took the decision not to tell him. I took
the decision that he should be told. The difficulty was what priority
I should give to that, given the other pressures he was under.
It is true that I could have put something in his box on paper.
The reason I did not is essentially because I did not realise
it would be a two week or longer period before I got chance to
tell him. I assumed that I would be able to tell him face to face
117. As political adviser, were you not aware
of his forward programme?
(Mr Hood) It was a time when we were dealing with
a lot of events that were coming up at very short notice. We had
the Contact Group; we had the issues on Kosovo going on. I think
we had hostages in Uganda at the time.
118. I can see why you did not go charging into
his office and say, "Look, Secretary of State, I must interrupt
your discussions on Kosovo and your phone call to your counterpart
in Moscow to tell you this", but a note is not a problem,
(Mr Hood) If I can finish that point, I was anticipating
that there would be an opportunity to raise it with him face to
face. Secondly, I would prefer to raise it with him face to face,
particularly because I was concerned about pieces of paper floating
around the office saying we had a leak. I wanted to make sure
that I put it to him directly. I did not want there to be any
greater risk of knowledge of the leak proliferating around the
119. You were saying you had said to Ernie that
you did not want to discuss these matters with him. Do you remember
what happened? Were you pretty firm about the fact that you did
not want to discuss it with him?
(Mr Hood) No, I did not say anything to him about
not discussing it.