Select Committee on Public Administration Written Evidence

Letter to the Committee from Heather Yasamee, Information Management Group, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  1.  Thank you for your e mail letter of 2 March in which, on behalf of PASC, you ask for clarification of two points arising from evidence given by Sir Christopher Meyer. To take your questions in turn:

Did Sir Michael Jay invoke the Diplomatic Service Regulations in his dealings with Sir Christopher Meyer over his television appearances on 4 June 2004 or at any other time?

  2.  In a telephone conversation with Sir Christopher Meyer on 4 June 2004, Sir Michael Jay told him that Ministers were concerned that he was straying towards the revelation of confidences gained in conversations in which he had taken part. Neither Michael Jay's letter of 26 July 2005 to Christopher Meyer nor his Private Secretary's contemporaneous record of this conversation written on 8 June 2004 say that the DSRs were specifically invoked by name in this conversation. However this is clearly implicit in the record of the conversation (relevant sentence quoted verbatim in the subsequent letter). Michael Jay has been consulted and his recollection is that while he may not have cited DSR formally, he believes that he delivered a clear enough message of concern that Christopher Meyer was getting close to crossing the line protected by the Regulations.

  3.  Although Sir Christopher Meyer has a different perception as to whether the rules were specifically drawn to his attention by the FCO prior to my letter to him of 30 June 2005, there is evidently no disagreement between us that he was aware at the outset of the rules and the requirement in them for clearing publications. He acknowledges this in his reply to Question 118.

  4.  Our position on this rests with Michael Jay's letter of 26 July 2005. We do not ourselves wish to pursue the point further, since to do so risks getting drawn into an dialogue on semantics, which we do not feel would serve any useful purpose.

Is it the case as Sir Christopher states, that the FCO makes a pragmatic distinction about the implementation of the DSRs between those still within the diplomatic service and individuals who have retired from the service?

  5.  Turning to your second and related question, the FCO makes no distinction between serving and retired officers as regards the requirement to get permission to publish books which draw on official information or experience, but we do make a pragmatic distinction in the case of less formal activities such as speaking engagements and contacts with the media. It is neither practical nor reasonable to require that no retired FCO officer may speak publicly on a matter with a bearing on his or her past employment as a Crown Servant without first clearing lines with the FCO. We work on the assumption that all retired staff are aware of their continued obligation for continued confidentiality and rely in the first instance on their good sense and judgement as to how much they can say without reference to the FCO. When they are in doubt or need guidance as to where to draw the line, we expect them to refer to us and in practice they do. When we are aware of any retired staff getting close to or crossing the line, then we take the initiative to contact them. Michael Jay's conversation with Christopher Meyer of 4 June 2004 is an example of this.

March 2006

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