Examination of Witness (Questions 20-39)|
THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2003
TURNBULL KCB CVO
20. And, as we sit here now, are you confidentas
we sit here nowthat that is the case?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Yes, I am confident. What I
am not competent to do is explain the full legal basis for the
interaction of one resolution with another resolution, it would
need an expert to do that, but I am absolutely confident that
this undertaking which civil servants can expect will be fulfilled.
21. Sorry, Kevin; and the advice from the Government's
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) That will form the basis of
22. Yes; it forms the basis of what you are
saying to us now?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I am confident, yes, that this
will be based on good advice from my Government's law officers.
23. Can I ask, just on what you said about targets,
on the dilemma which you said rightly that I had raised previously,
about how targets will be used in business and in government,
just one question on that, and that is, would you have any suggestions
about how you would resolve that dilemma?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I think we will resolve the
dilemma by recognising that each individual target holder strives
to produce their target. But when you are looking at the totality
of the report you do not brand as a failure something that, in
fact, may be achieving 80, 90% of targets. You look at, also,
where has this process, of which targets are a part, brought us,
in terms of, for example what is the standard at Key Stage 2,
what are the standards of GCSE, have those categories of crime
gone down. You look at the outcomes at the point that you are
making this judgment, compared with the way they were before,
and you do not rely exclusively on the comparison between where
you are and where you hoped to be, in terms of the target. You
have got to bring the total picture into play.
24. I will not pursue that myself, because I
know that colleagues want to ask you a bit more about targets.
You probably know we had the new Ombudsman in front of us last
week, and we had quite an interesting session, and one of the
things we asked her about was this whole area of ministerial gifts.
And there have been some further press reports indicating that,
following some of our discussions last week, a decision has been
taken to publish ministerial gifts over £140 in value, backdated
to April 2001. Is that the position?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Broadly, that is the position,
but I think I will disappoint you by saying that it was not following
your discussion, this was a decision that was taken earlier.
25. Right. When was the decision made?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) However, if you want to take
the credit for it, that is alright.
26. No, no.
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Shortly; and the document is
being prepared as we speak. Shortly, we will produce precisely
27. When did you decide to do that?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) In the last few weeks.
28. Can you explain to me why April 2001 was
chosen as the appropriate date to backdate it to, rather than,
for example, back to May 1997, or 1998, or 1999?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) The question is how much time
and effort you want to put into reconstructing the record. Now
you may say the record should have been kept, and I think basically
this is taking it back to the beginning of this Parliament rather
than the one before.
29. I notice you have got some in-flight refuelling
there; do you want to avail yourself of that, while we are at
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) It says, June 2001, election,
underlined; in other words, it is saying we will start from this
Parliament. Basically, it is an agreement about how we go forward
really, and then getting good practice.
30. But do you think that is a sufficiently
strong basis on which to choose a date, if I were to come along
and make a request, for example, or ask for a judicial review
of your decision on its reasonableness and logic of why you chose
that particular date, do you think the two reasons you have given,
one, that there was an election at that time, and, secondly, that
that is probably all you can spare the time to do?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) That is always a possibility.
In addition, there are two things to come out; one is, we are
to produce this list, and then there is the Ombudsman's report.
If the Ombudsman says, "I think this is unsatisfactory,"
then obviously you are in one situation. If she has taken the
view that this is a reasonable response, and, what is more, entrenches
some good practice going forward, then we are in a different world.
31. Do you have any idea what sorts of gifts
of a value of over £140 ministers tend to get from foreign
governments, or businessmen, and so on, have you seen a list of
any of these?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Most of these come to either
the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary. I think you will
find there are remarkably few coming to anyone else. It can be
anything, it can be art, jewellery or books, all sorts of things,
I do not think there is any one way of capturing what they could
32. As I understand it, if they are over that
value, if the minister does not want to pay personally to keep
them then you have to do something with them; so what happens
to them all?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Most of them, if they are very
valuable items, are retained by the department.
33. There was this case, was there not, of John
Major, when he was given a horse by the Turkmenistan Government.
It was last seen at the dog-handlers agency of the Ministry of
Defence at Melton Mowbray, I understand; do you know if it is
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I have no idea. This illustrates
the dilemma, that you are given gifts, and these are gestures
of friendship, and you have to treat them respectfully, you cannot
Kevin Brennan: Send it to the knackers-yard,
34. Or ill-treat it?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) In answer to that, I do not
know whether that story is true, I am just taking it as given.
35. One of the reasons we were told previously
that there was a problem perhaps, or an embarrassment, about revealing
these gifts was it could be embarrassing politically to the Government,
if they come from certain businessmen, and so on, or possibly
even politically embarrassing to foreign governments, if perhaps
their gift was not as good as had been given by the Turkmenistan
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) We are going to list them; so
I think we have concluded that this is something that we are able
36. May I ask you about the e-Envoy; is he on
target to achieve his targets by 2005?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Yes, I think he is. There are
two parts to his target; one is getting something like 700 services
online by 2005. Douglas Alexander, an answer in PQ, said that,
on the basis of the last survey, we are up to 54%. That was in
the autumn. We are moving on, so we are probably round about the
60% mark, but we will have to wait for that figure until we get
to the next survey. So we are moving on pretty steadily. The second
is the change that was made to this target in SR2002. I must emphasise
that there are two things; one is availability of these things,
and the other is usage, and we have identified about ten major
areas where we want to concentrate and drive up the level of usage.
37. Because, last year, Mr Pinder was on an
away day and he said that his feeling was that they would not
have, and I will not say exactly what he said but, a chance of
hitting the targets in 2005. He did go on to make the point that,
in fact, of course, he was thinking of leaving in 2004, so perhaps
it was not such a problem. Do you know if that is the course?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) We are working on the basis
of getting up to more or less full coverage by 2005. Now squeezing
out the last 10% is always the difficult bit in these things,
but that remains the commitment.
38. Is Mr Pinder under contract?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Yes, he is.
39. Is he going in 2004; do you know when he
is due, under his contract, because it is quite a tricky question?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) His present contract runs till
1 Note by Witness: The Attorney General answered
a PQ in the House of Lords on 17 March setting out the legal basis
for the use of force. Back