Memorandum by Lance Price
1. I have been invited to appear before
your committee on Thursday 15 December and am delighted to do
so. The Committee Secretary has further invited me to submit a
written memorandum in advance of my appearance and I hope the
following observations will be of some assistance to the Committee.
2. I was a Special Adviser at 10 Downing
Street from June 1998 to June 2000 when I left to become an employee
of the Labour Party until the General Election held on 7 June
3. The Spin Doctor's Diary, which
contained material that I recorded in my personal diary at the
time, was published in September 2005. More than five years had
passed since my employment as a temporary civil servant ended.
Two General Elections had been held and the Prime Minister had
indicated his intention not to contest the subsequent election
as leader of the Labour Party.
4. During my time as a Special Adviser I
subscribed to the view that rules governing the publication of
memoirs and diaries by former ministers, civil servants and special
advisers were both necessary and desirable. I have not altered
5. I first contacted the Cabinet Office
on 12 May 2005 to seek their advice on the rules as they now stand.
I was sent two documents. The first was an extract from the Civil
Service Management Code (Section 4.2). The second was an extract
from the Directory of Civil Service Guidance referring to "Memoirs
and Books: Publication by Civil Servants". As a former civil
servant I took particular regard to two paragraphs, 4.2.5 of the
Code which states that "The permission of the Head of their
Department and the Head of the Home Civil Service must be sought
before entering into commitments to publish such memoirs after
leaving the service", and paragraph 3 from the Guidance which
says that "Former members of the Home Civil Service . . .
are also urged to seek the advice of the Head of their former
Department before entering any commitment to publish or broadcast
personal accounts of their experience in Crown Employment."
6. I visited the Cabinet Office in person
on Thursday 23 June 2005 and handed in a copy of the manuscript.
I was at that stage anticipating a process of discussion and negotiation
over the contents. For that reason I had not made significant
changes to the diary entries I wrote at the time of my employment
other than to remove reference to the advice of named career civil
servants and references to the Prime Minister's family and private
affairs. At this stage there was no commitment on behalf of Hodder
and Stoughton to publish the Diary and the text had not been shown
to newspapers with a view to serialisation. So far as I could
tell, I was acting in accordance with the advice I had been given.
7. Only 1 July 2005 the then Cabinet Secretary,
Sir Andrew Turnbull, wrote to me saying he could not agree to
publication and that he found the whole premise of a book of this
kind completely unacceptable.
8. It was only after receipt of this letter,
which appeared to rule out any further discussions, that Hodder
and Stoughton decided to seek clarification of the legal position
with regard to publication.
9. On 26 August Hodder and Stoughton wrote
to the new Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, explaining that
changes had been made to the text on legal advice and expressing
the hope that these changes would allay any concerns the government
might previously have had. At this point the Cabinet Office indicated
for the first time a willingness to discuss the contents of the
proposed book and to consult with a view to proposing changes
10. There then followed a period of negotiation,
most of it by telephone, during which a relatively small number
of changes were requested by the Cabinet Office. This was done
in an entirely positive, constructive and indeed friendly fashion.
Not all of the changes requested were accepted but a significant
11. Given that more than three months had
elapsed since contact was first made with the Cabinet Office,
and confident of their position following the legal advice they
had received, Hodder and Stoughton were now keen to press ahead
with publication. Newspapers who had expressed an interest in
serialisation were invited to read the text having first signed
strict agreements not to divulge any of its contents either verbally
or in writing. This was intended to ensure, inter alia, the
confidentiality of any changes subsequently agreed with the Cabinet
12. Discussions with the Cabinet Office
were concluded on 7 September and the page proofs were sent to
the printers shortly afterwards.
13. On 18 September the Mail on Sunday
began the serialisation of The Spin Doctor's Diary.
On their news pages they also carried extensive coverage of many
but not all of the changes agreed with the Cabinet Office. I was
aware of their intention to do so only late the night before when
copies of the papers were sent to me by despatch rider. The paper
gave no explanation of how it had come by the sections that had
since been removed other than to say that "copies of the
deleted sections of Price's manuscript have been circulated around
No 10". The newspaper had also obtained two letters from
the Cabinet Office to which it referred. One was addressed to
government departments warning of the forthcoming publication
and serialisation. The other was addressed to my editor at Hodder
and Stoughton, Rupert Lancaster. At the time Mr. Lancaster had
not himself received a hard copy of the letter and when it did
arrive several days later it was in an unsealed envelope.
14. I have taken this opportunity not to
justify or to defend my decision to publish The Spin Doctor's
Diary, but merely to explain the sequence of events that led
to its publication in its present form and to the publicity that
surrounded its serialisation. The process clearly did not operate
as it should have done and there are undoubtedly lessons to be
learnt from my experience. I look forward to discussing those
lessons with the Committee in due course.
5 December 2005