Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
THURSDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2002
80. I have said to you when you have been here
before that your press releases are boring so you need somebody
to interpret that press release to get them in, which is why it
gives rise to all the questions of spin because you do not actually
put the substance in your press releases. Is that not part of
the problembecause you are trying to do a job that is impartial,
and therefore you need somebody to give the partial view?
(Mr Granatt) I think the last time we had this exchange,
if I recall, you pointed out that something required a partial
view in a particular context. My view is thisand when I
have run press operations in the range of departments I have run
I have always insisted that they are as clear as possible and
that you can understandor the reader canthat they
are unequivocal and unambiguous, and there are occasions, I will
admit, when I think Government press releasesand the Government
is by no means the only culprit in thisput out information
that is itself not entirely explicable and is not of particularly
high quality. One of the things we have been doing in trying to
drive up standards across and, in the words of the Mountfield
Report, to bring the standards of every operation up to the best,
is to look at the training of people and the standards of operation
to ensure that does not happen.
81. Do you see yourself as a responsive unit
in the current 24/7 news environment? How much are you trying
to set the agenda as the Government Communication Service and
how much are you having to respond, and what is the balance in
your view at the moment?
(Mr Granatt) I think the Government over recent yearsand
it started before this administration came to powerwas
talking the view that there was a need to get out there with information
proactively and not just simply drop a press notice over the parapet
and expect the media to report it. There is much more on emphasis
on that these days and there are units within departments, and
I think we explain this inside the current annual report whose
job is to look at how a policy or initiative can be explained
in a more proactive fashion, and is not simply put on the table
for people to pick up and read about. That requires, I think,
a fair amount of careful work to make sure one does not cross
the boundary that I have talked about of pushing something in
a way that it would seem to be inappropriate for the Civil Service
to do. But it is absolutely true that you will find that in a
modern Government press office part of the operation is reactiveand
some of these press officers are taking, for example, upwards
of 200,000 calls a year. You will find an operation has both the
reactive side to handle incoming news and a planning unit that
will look at how something can be effectively rolled out to specific
audiences. That may be a multi-stranded effort; it may involve
marketing communications, if that is appropriate, and we have
firm rules on that; it may involve talking to specific audiences
by talking to specific news media; and talking to specific audiences
in specific geographical areas; but I think there is more emphasis
nowand rightlyin a world where there is much more
choice for the reader and viewer and listener, and people are
not locked into, as they were in 1963, nine news broadcasts a
day. On the last count we did there are 48 separate news broadcasts
in this country an hour from a vast variety of sources; they reach
people in different ways and no longer is the publicthankfully,
I suspectlocked into one particular source of news or another
82. But you are not getting the message across
because people do not believe the message you are giving, so what
are you doing to look at the ways you can get that across because
obviously some of the things you are doing are not achieving the
(Mr Granatt) The departments that face that problem
now do indulge more in researching how something has played out
because, apart from anything else, they have to account for significant
resources. Part of the rules, therefore, for running an advertising
campaign, for example, requires there to be research into what
is going to be the best way of doing it; is it the best way of
reaching an audience given the sums of money that might be involved;
and tracking through with research on whether it is working or
not. I would not regard an operation as being professionally managed
in the best way if there was not a measure of research, an assessment
being done, on whether the methods being employed are effective,
and, indeed, in one or two circumstances I have been involved
in in the recent past, we have during an event run quick research
as effectively as one can in those circumstances to ensure that
we could see what was happening, and that we were relating to
the public what they felt they needed.
83. Lastly, when you were last before us the
knowledge network was in its infancy, and you gave us certain
assurances about its use. What is its current state?
(Mr Granatt) It is still in the process of being rolled
out; I think the assurance is that, although it is in much more
of a complete form and it is sitting on the systems of most departments,
it is a network of systems between different departmentsintranets,
for example. It is being used I think extensively for one department
or the centre, No 10, to look at briefing that is available on
a particular topic. I think the assurance I gave you was that
it is being used properly, is still intact and in placeI
do not believe I know of any instances, as far as I can, where
it is not being used properly. Indeed you may recall, because
it was public knowledge during the general election, access to
the network was denied to, for example, ministers and special
advisers directly, so the Civil Service was interposed between
any request on the networks information and anybody else.
84. Is it helping you do your job?
(Mr Granatt) I think for a number of people it is
helping them do their job
85. Part of your job is apparently head of the
Civil Contingencies Secretariat to tackle emergency situations.
Could you explain what your role would be there?
(Mr Granatt) It is wider than that. The aim of the
Secretariat is to look at the resilience of the UK, particularly
the Government machine, to circumstances that could lead to crisis.
So it is not simply reacting to an emergency: it is also making
sure that we have processes in place that will help to preempt
a crisis before it happens. The Prime Minister asked for this
to be set up after the last General Election and in the light
of circumstances such as the fuel crisis and foot and mouth, and
the work of the Civil Service and others into Y2K. That is now
the bulk of my work. The bulk of my time is taken up in running
86. So in terms of your previous role, prior
to this job, what part of the role has been taken away from you?
(Mr Granatt) I have not lost any of the role. What
I have gained are two extremely good deputies to reinforce me
in that role, so the work I would have done personally is now
picked up by two very good people who work for me. But I still
undertake sitting on, for instance, assessment panels for senior
recruitment; I undertake to meet any member of the Service who
wants to talk to me; I undertake to talk, as far as I can, to
all new senior recruits at senior civil service level; I chair
information meetings and conferences when we have them; and I
play as full a role as I can with the burden of having two jobs.
87. Moving on to the handbook itself on ethics
and professional standards, you say that you are "satisfied
that Heads of Information and their staff are taking care to ensure
that their work does not expose their Ministers or departments
to criticism". Do you still stand by that?
(Mr Granatt) In the broad sense, yes, I do. They work
very hard to ensure that ministers and departments are not exposed
to criticism. A lot of that will be ensuring, for example, that
good advice is given on what is within the rules and not when
it is necessary, and to ensure that procedures are followed which
meet all the requirements expected of us.
88. In Sir Richard Mottram's statement on 25
February he says, "It would appear that one or more officials
chose to make mischief by describing this as a fictitious e-mail
and made up a story about these two events to two national newspapers".
That indicates to me that Martin Sixsmith perhaps probably is
not the only person within the department that needed to be looked
at. What would be your views on that?
(Mr Granatt) I have no views on whether there was
somebody besides Martin Sixsmith involved in anything, or whether
Martin Sixsmith himself was involved. I am only in possession
of the facts as set out in the Secretary of State's statement
in that matter. I was not directly involved in the events of last
week in terms of the meetings that took place and are being reported
in the newspapers; at No 10 at the regular 8.30 meeting, for example.
So I have no view on that. I do have a view that, if it was felt
that there was something going on inside that operation that should
not be going on, the people involved should stop it straight away,
and I would support the departmentand this is in my letterin
investigating what did happen inside that department, if such
a thing has been proved to happen.
89. So are you satisfied now that, within the
DTLR in any case, everything is OK?
(Mr Granatt) I am satisfied that inside the DTLR people
know what my view is. It is the responsibility of the Permanent
Secretary to ensure that the operation runs as it should do, I
am not the operational manager.
90. Prior to the events of this week, were you
satisfied, to use your words here, "that heads of information
and their staff are taking care to ensure that their work does
not expose their ministers or departments to criticism"?
Before this week were you satisfied in DTLR?
(Mr Granatt) Yes, I would say I have been satisfied
from what I knew, because I am not in day to day contact with
any department particularly, that the procedures were being followed
and that matters were being conducted properly. I had no evidence
to the contrary.
91. Until all of this blew up you had no inkling
of any problems inside that department on the press side?
(Mr Granatt) It depends on what sort of problems you
are discussing. If you are discussing the behaviour of people
inside the department professionally I stand by the answer I just
gave. If you are asking me whether we felt there was unhappiness
inside that department for various reasons, we were aware of unhappiness.
92. So you were not satisfied?
(Mr Granatt) On the matter of propriety, which is
the question that Mr Wright put to me first time around, I was
satisfied, I had no evidence to the contrary.
93. I am not trying to trick you.
(Mr Granatt) I am simply trying to clarify that there
are two separate issues.
94. It was a kind of nest of vipers in there
and I wondered if you knew about this.
(Mr Granatt) The nest of vipers interpretation, with
respect, is yours and not mine. I have seen the results of no
investigation yet of what happened inside that department and
I am not going to pass judgment until I do.
95. But you knew there was a problem before
it blew up?
(Mr Granatt) We knew that there were people who were
inside that department who were unhappy.
96. Can I just quickly come back on to that
point. I just reiterate the point that Sir Richard Mottram said
"one or more issues within the department". Surely that
would indicate to anybody that there are probably more problems
within that department that need to be investigated?
(Mr Granatt) That is his judgment, I am not demurring
from it. It is his judgment to make. I am in receipt of that particular
statement, as you are, I do not know any more details about it.
97. Would you make it your business to actually
find out more details?
(Mr Granatt) I think over succeeding weeks I probably
will do but at the moment, of course, we have people inside that
department who may wish to move on, for example, and we will have
to find some way of helping them if they do that. These are people
with very marketable skills, they may wish to move on to another
department because they feel unhappy, so undoubtedly we will know
more about it in that sense. In terms of an investigation into
what might or might not have been done properly by people there,
I have no greater knowledge than has been expounded in the statement
by the Secretary of State and in Sir Richard Mottram's letter.
98. It just makes me wonder perhaps if all people
need to do who are unhappy in a department is put out a press
statement to lend themselves to move to another department. I
would say if they are unhappy in one department and go to these
lengths then perhaps they should leave the Civil Service altogether.
(Mr Granatt) I think you have just echoed what I put
in my letter, sir.
99. You were going to say something else, were
(Mr Granatt) I was not actually. My lips moved. I
might have been thinking about it. You ask me a question.