Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
MONDAY 17 APRIL 2000
PHILLIPS KCB AND
120. Can I make it clear, Sir Hayden Phillips,
that this Committee went on record many years ago saying that
it does not accept gagging clauses and they should not exist.
Are you saying that there was one in this case or there was not?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I am saying there was one which
was put in and agreed to on legal advice. Equally I have answered
and will continue to answer questions which the Committee put
to me about the arrangements made for her severance.
121. Sir Hayden Phillips, I regard this as a
matter of extreme severity. This Committee has, on more than one
occasion, made it clear that such clauses have no place in the
public sector. I want you to provide us with a copy of whatever
that agreement was and we will decide, when we have seen it, whether
we will keep it confidential or not. Will you provide that?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Of course I will.
I have made it clear to her, as well as to the Committee, that
so far as questions from the Public Accounts Committee are concerned
or other parliamentary committee I could not withhold information
requested. I have not done so and I will not do so.
122. Thank you very much, Sir Hayden Phillips
and Mr Smedley. It is fair to say that to limit your comments
on the problems the Committee faces in terms of who we have in
front of us is not felt by most of the Committee, it is felt by
all of the Committee. It is very frustrating to have you two gentlemen
here when, in fact, probably we ought to have both of your predecessors.
That being said, I think it is also proper that I recognise one
other thing, that is that although there was a situation in this
department which was, in your words "risible", in a
simple word "unacceptable" from the point of view of
the customers which you serve it is also proper to recognise you
have made a start on putting it right. I think that we will probably
want to suspend judgment on whether that will work for couple
of years until we see it. I should recognise that factor. Thank
you both very much. No doubt, as ever, a difficult set of questions.
It has been very helpful to us.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Could I just say one thing,
it is not meant to sound pious, in the course of trying to get
this right, sensible cooperation between the Department and the
NAO has played a very important part. I would want that to continue
as we make these changes. When I used the word "risible"
it was in relation to the key errors which Mr Murphy has been
keen to pin down and not to the whole performance of the Department
and the PTO?
123. Sir Hayden Phillips, we have our own views
on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Thank you very much.
7 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1 page 15 (PAC
1999-2000/125) and Evidence, Appendix 2, page 15 (PAC 1999-2000/184). Back