Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 123)

MONDAY 17 APRIL 2000

SIR HAYDEN PHILLIPS KCB AND MR NICK SMEDLEY

  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.

Mr Williams

  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[7]. 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.

Chairman

  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


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 31 January 2001