Examination of Witness (Questions 100
TUESDAY 13 JULY 1999
100. Did this person offer the Report to you
and you said, "Yes, I'll have it"?
(Mr Touhig) No.
101. You just said, "I need a copy of the
(Mr Touhig) Yes.
102. Was there a general debate going on outside
as to what was going on in the Committee at that time? Were people
in the tea room talking about the problems with the Social Security
(Mr Touhig) I was not aware of any problems until
I was approached on the 9th.
103. Do you remember what time of day it was?
(Mr Touhig) As I recall, when I wrote to the Chairman
last week, I think it was about tea time, late afternoon. I am
secretary to the Welsh Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party
and I recall I was going to a meeting at 5 o'clock, and I believe
I had it some minutes before then, I went off to the meeting and
did not actually look at it until some time after that.
104. Can I put it to you that you are now effectively
a senior member of the House of Commons? Well, you are, you have
been here seven or eight years.
(Mr Touhig) Not quite as long as that. 1995. It feels
like that sometimes!
105. You carry the gravitas of a senior
member. Some might argue that a senior member of the House approaching
a new member, who in the context of their willingness to leak
is pretty green, might overwhelm them, by you approaching them
and saying, "Look, it would be very helpful if you were to
let us have a copy of that Report." Do you not feel in some
respects that the member that was being asked was placed at a
(Mr Touhig) I think, looking back, you are possibly
right but I did not approach it in that way. I did not seek in
any way to awe my colleague by asking for this Report. I was genuinely
trying to help and understand the problem.
106. I finally want to ask you about this difficulty
which I can say Archy Kirkwood referred to, and that was the Treasury
Committee, the Social Security Committee, the Treasury. There
is almost a triangle there really, is there not? There is a difficulty
in keeping everyone working together. Do you feel you were a conduit
at all during the course of all this with the Treasury? You happened
to make arrangements. I understand there was a meeting in Downing
Street, was there not, with the Social Security Select Committee?
(Mr Touhig) Yes.
107. Do you remember the date of that?
(Mr Touhig) I do not remember off-hand, but the Treasury
had quite a good relationship with this particular Select Committee.
I was present at the meeting in Downing Street which was an informal
meeting, all members of the Committee discussing matters of mutual
interest, and it was very constructive and very helpful.
108. Do you feel you were placed in a conduit
role whereby you were a sort of intermediary between the Treasury
and the Committee?
(Mr Touhig) I think in the particular circumstances
of this draft Reportand as you have already noted on the
10th the Committee took I think the unique decision to approach
me and ask me to lobby on their behalfyes, I was being
used as a conduit, a form of communication between the Committee
and the Treasury.
109. Can I just advise you that I think it is
quite outrageous that a Member of Parliament should refuse to
allow you to identify them, placing you in this position? My view
is that there is an obligation placed on the member concerned
to reveal their own name and make a public statement and I think
it is quite deplorable that you are placed in the position where
you cannot answer for reasons of what you believe, I suppose,
(Mr Touhig) I understand your comment. It is a perfectly
valid comment but I want to be fair to my colleague in this and
I did ask for the Report and I must take the blame for that.
Mr Campbell-Savours: Okay.
110. Like Dale, I feel you have been put in
an invidious position as regards the leak of this draft. Do you
feel by not saying who gave you a copy of the draft that you are
actually therefore casting a shadow over all your colleagues on
the Social Security Select Committee?
(Mr Touhig) Yes, I think that is a problem. I have
thought about this from all ways and, quite honestly, if I could
come here this morning with the answer the Committee wants, I
would do it, but I feel in all conscience I cannot. I do recognise
my failure in this respect and I am doing it because I do not
feel I have any choice. It does leave a bit of a question mark
over people who are wholly innocent of any involvement in this
matter and I bitterly regret that but I cannot find a solution
111. You are aware that there are people on
that Committee who want their names cleared?
(Mr Touhig) Yes, I am sure. I am aware of that.
112. You are saying you are not willing to say
who it was who gave you the draft Report, are you willing to say
who it was not?
(Mr Touhig) I think that would be extremely difficult.
If any of you put yourself in my position for a moment I am sure
you would have wrestled with your conscience the same way I have
and it is extremely difficult to find a solution. In the absence
of my colleague being willing to be named, I do not feel able
to reveal that name. I bitterly regret this is causing some grief
for other colleagues but I must act as my conscience tells me
is right at this time and without that person's consent I cannot
113. You state that when you got the Report
just before 5 pm on the 9th, which was before the Committee met,
you did not discuss the report with anybody?
(Mr Touhig) No.
114. You say you made no use of the Report?
(Mr Touhig) No.
115. You did read it though?
(Mr Touhig) I read some of it, I did not read all
116. Did you feel the Report was hostile to
(Mr Touhig) I did not look at it in that sense. I
looked at it where there was a clear frustration that the Treasury
had failed to give evidence. I knew there was a problem because
we were on the eve of the Budget and it is very difficult for
Treasury Ministers and perhaps officials to talk about what might
be in the Budget. There is a lot of speculation about this. I
did feel that the Committee were very frustrated and I well understood
that and that is why I felt it was right and proper I should make
that frustration known in the Treasury.
117. Therefore the knowledge of what was in
the Report, the bits you did read, did gee you up in a way to
approach Ministers and officials to appear before the Select Committee?
(Mr Touhig) Events moved very rapidly, yes. Within
hours of me looking at the copy of the draft Report, the Committee
had met and decided not to take any further action on the Report
but to renew the appeal to me to talk to the Treasury. Within
a day or so, as you will have seen in correspondence, the Treasury
agreed to give evidence.
118. You said just now, Don, "within hours".
(Mr Touhig) Yes.
119. You had the Report on the 9th?
(Mr Touhig) The Committee met on the morning of the
10th, it was not weeks and weeks is what I am getting at. It was
a relatively short time frame from about 9th to 11th that this
whole matter was resolved, I think, to the Committee's best advantage.