Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 140 - 157)



  140. Both?
  (Mr Touhig) Yes. I think the political advisers, I am not certain of the civil servants, they may have been overhearing a brief conversation that I had.

  141. What was the nature of the conversation?
  (Mr Touhig) The nature of the conservation was that the Social Security Select Committee were very angry with the Treasury. The Treasury was failing to respond to a number of requests, I understood, to give evidence to it. They were going to be very angry about this and I thought the Treasury should look at the matter again.

  142. Did you feel that it was appropriate to tell them that in fact the Report was going to be potentially damaging in its original form?
  (Mr Touhig) No.

  143. You did not? That is a very persuasive argument to get them to see the Committee.
  (Mr Touhig) You will see in my response to the Chairman's letter last week I did not discuss the contents of the Report with anybody. I did flag up the worries the Committee were having but I did not discuss the content.

  144. Worries, are you talking now about the worries about the content or the worries about the failure to give evidence?
  (Mr Touhig) The worries about the failure to give evidence.

  145. You never thought it necessary to deal with the content at all?
  (Mr Touhig) I did not feel it necessary to deal with the content.

  146. The Report was pretty useless to you?
  (Mr Touhig) Well, when you say useless in the sense I tried to understand the problem, I did not read the whole Report, I read bits of it that I felt were relevant to the point being made to me. That is the way I took it up with the Treasury.

  147. Did you or did you allow anybody else photocopy the document?
  (Mr Touhig) No.

  148. No-one at all?
  (Mr Touhig) No.

  149. This is the first leaked document you have ever handled as a PPS?
  (Mr Touhig) Yes.

  Mr Williams: Bear with me. A lot of my questions have been asked.


  150. Did you summarise any of this Report to anyone?
  (Mr Touhig) No, I did not. I did not discuss the contents of the Report.

  151. Not at all? Not to anybody?
  (Mr Touhig) Not at all. I made that plain, I hope, in my letter to you last week. I did raise the issue of the concerns the Committee were having with the Treasury.

Mr Williams

  152. We are in a slight quandary in that the Chairman has already said to us that the first time the issue of approaching you was raised was actually at ten to one on the Wednesday at their meeting just as they were finishing. Your name did not appear to have been mentioned prior to that. Indeed the evidence we have had suggests that so far as he was concerned, other than in passing—that was his actual phrase "in passing"—there had been no reference to the need to put on any pressure or do anything to make an approach to the Treasury. Yet the day before this specific request was raised at ten to one, one or two, possibly three people—
  (Mr Touhig) Two I think.

  153. Two or three over the two days.
  (Mr Touhig) I think I recall two.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: Two before asking for the Report.

Mr Williams

  154. Did you ask the first one or the second one for a copy of the Report?
  (Mr Touhig) I think it was the first person who spoke to me.

  155. You knew you had no right to it?
  (Mr Touhig) Yes.

  156. I am still puzzled that you did not to some extent, Don, at least alert the new Member to the risk they were taking. It could be very damaging for their career, particularly if they are a Member in a marginal constituency, if they are adversely named in a situation like that. Did you not alert them at all to the risks they were facing?
  (Mr Touhig) I did not consider it at that time. It was not out of any lack of regard, it just did not come to my mind at that time.

  Mr Williams: I think that finishes my questioning.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  157. Prior to asking for the document, were you aware there had been a briefing of the press on these issues?
  (Mr Touhig) I was not aware at that time.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: Thank you, Chairman.

  Chairman: Thank you, Don, for coming along today.

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Prepared 21 July 1999