Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)



  40. In broad terms, are the rules that are applied in this case exactly the same as would have applied in the period of the last Government?
  (Mr Granatt) In terms of propriety?

  41. Yes.
  (Mr Granatt) The rules that were issued in June of 1997 had no substantial difference at all between the rules of this and the previous Government.

  42. Sorry, I asked you the wrong question. Is the matter being handled and investigated in the same way? Is the process the same as in the previous Government?
  (Mr Granatt) The process by which DTLR is investigating this?

  43. Yes.
  (Mr Granatt) The straight answer is I do not know in detail because I do not know the detail of DTLR's investigation.

  44. But you will know and you will consider your position at that stage?
  (Mr Granatt) It is possible I will know and, if I felt it was necessary to look across the whole system because it was a widespread endemic problem, then clearly that was something I would take a view on.

  45. You have your finger on the pulse much more closely than us. Do you know what the latest view is? Is Mr Sixsmith—?
  (Mr Granatt) I know no more than what is in this morning's papers, no.

  46. And you believe the papers?
  (Mr Granatt) Seriously, I do not know.

  47. I was a little confused on what you said earlier—and this was because of something Richard Wilson said—a handful of special advisers could not overall manipulate 3,700 mandarins—I understand what he meant. How does the figure you used of 1094/28 people relate to the figure in Nick Jones' article in the New Statesman about the 240 people who are involved in communications?
  (Mr Granatt) That number clearly refers to the people who work in press offices in Whitehall.

  48. And the other people then work for—?
  (Mr Granatt) They work for the same Director of Communications, they work in marketing communications, publications, advertising, seminars—all the things that are not directly press work.

  49. But which do directly fall into the empire of—?
  (Mr Granatt)—the Director of Communications, yes.

  50. And your remit only runs to the 240?
  (Mr Granatt) No. It runs across all of them.

  51. The New Statesman article suggests that this has been a revolution in the way Government works. Do you have a view on that?
  (Mr Granatt) The "revolution" being the special advisers?

  52. No. The revolution being the way in which an official in No 10, a party appointee but a Government official who is capable of doing all this throughout the system, is able to control his 1,000 people?
  (Mr Granatt) Yes. If you ask anybody at No 10 truthfully whether they think they control these 1,000 people, they would hoot with laughter, and that would be true of this administration and the last. Those people are under the authority of their departments; they are responsible to them; they are not responsible to No 10. The revolution I think of which Nick Jones is probably speaking is having a special adviser with executive powers in Downing Street who runs the communication operation and who has taken a robust view of how to try and co-ordinate the activities of a large number of departments of state, but I think in terms of, "You will do this today, you will do this tomorrow"—it would be wrong for me not to point out that there are often quite vigorous debates as to who does what—

  53. I understand that but you have a traditional Civil Service that what is the responsibility of one department is that department's responsibility, and you are suggesting that you cannot interfere in one department because it is looking after its own affairs, but the special advisers—and this was true under the last Government as well of course but much more now—do network in a much more aggressive and open to themselves way, and they have a system which you say you would rather not have?
  (Mr Granatt) I am not sure what I said I would rather not have.

  54. You would rather not interfere in other departments?
  (Mr Granatt) I cannot interfere.

  55. You do not wish to investigate what is going on in Richard Mottram's department?
  (Mr Granatt) What are we talking about here? If we are talking about day-to-day strategy, No 10 has always had a role and a general authority, whoever ran it, to do its best to co-ordinate and direct departments collectively to achieve a central aim. That has always got to be compromised and reconciled to the fact that Government is a very big and complicated machine and departments have their own priorities and will argue very vigorously about the changes in what they are doing because it will upset the programme they have carefully set out. That is different from my role as a central adviser. I do not have an operational role in the way that departments run what they do.

  56. I think what I really mean is it is a reflection of what Richard Wilson told us about the numbers in that if we take your figure, which I thought was fair, of 40 people, these are up on the bridge with Alastair Campbell and the thousand people are down in the boiler room with you, and the 40 people up on the bridge can have a hugely disproportionate effect on what actually happens, so the numbers game does not work well?
  (Mr Granatt) I can remember special advisers complaining just as loudly about No 10 as civil servants do. I think the point you are making, though, is a fair one: that special advisers, because they work closely with a minister, have an opportunity to influence what a minister does quite properly in their role as special adviser. Quite often, and in my experience and in my role as director of five departments, I did not have much less influence or opportunity or effect on the people I was advising. I return to something I have said to this Committee and others before: that I think the key to all this, if it is working properly—and in my experience generally it is working properly and I have asked all my colleagues across Whitehall how things are working and all of them, with one obvious exception, say things are working well at the moment—is that there is a strong working partnership of trust between the special advisers, the director of communication and the principal private secretary in the minister's office because that relationship is key to making these things work.

  57. Can I ask you for a personal view on one last thing? You said you could not answer this and you could not say anything else, but to us it is perfectly obvious you are not entirely happy about this matter. In order to draw a line between what is legitimate and what is not, how would you best see the way forward of the question of the Civil Service Act? Do you have a view?
  (Mr Granatt) On the Civil Service Act?

  58. Yes, and whether or not that would solve the problem which some people perceive as existing, and confusion of our roles in this?
  (Mr Granatt) My view is this, if I am allowed to give a personal view: we have codes at the moment. Those codes set out as clearly as anybody could manage the line between acting properly and improperly, which is essentially, "Are we doing anything today as civil servants which would prevent us serving an administration of a different colour tomorrow?" I think a debate on the Civil Service Act would be extremely useful if it brought more clarity and consensus to what was happening. I think it would have to enjoy broad agreement because otherwise it would have no value and I think we would mislead ourselves if we thought that a statutory framework would automatically of itself bring great clarity and certainty, because that has not been the history of legislation.

Kevin Brennan

  59. You drew this nautical analogy of your role. If we were to extend that more into Star Trek, Tony Blair is Captain Kirk and Alastair Campbell is Mr Spock, and you are Scotty, down in the engine room. Where does the Prime Minister's official spokesperson fit into the ship?
  (Mr Granatt) I thought Alastair Campbell was Mr Chang because he was the guy steering the ship. Mr Spock was somebody else—you could always find somebody in No 10 who is Mr Spock! Sorry—I have lost the thread.

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