Letter from the Cabinet Office to the
Thank you for your letter of 21 December asking
a number of questions relating to the process for commenting on
Sir Christopher Meyer's book. First, I must apologise for the
delay in replying to your letter which had unfortunately, been
overlooked owing to an administrative oversight. Taking the questions
you raise in turn:
1. Heather Yasamee's letter to you of 21
March covers this point. I can confirm that the Cabinet Office
has no other records.
2. No changes were sought by the Cabinet
Office or the FCOplease see the Foreign Secretary's reply
to a Parliamentary Question from Mr Gordon Prentice on 28 November
3. Sir Gus O'Donnell's letter of 4 November
set out the views of both the Cabinet Office and the FCO. The
dialogue between the Cabinet Office and the publisher's representative
was very much at the level of keeping the publisher informed about
how things were progressing in terms of collecting comments, and
where necessary seeking an extension to the deadline for submitting
4. No other letters or emails are held by
the Cabinet Office. There may have been an email updating the
publisher on progress with collecting responses, but we do not
now have any record of such an email.
5/6. Howell James became involved in September
on a personal basis to help elicit assurance from Sir Christopher
Meyer that he would submit a textthis was in the context
of advertisements trailing the book, and the fact that the FCO
had not been able to secure a copy of the proposed book.
7. The book was sent to the FCO on the day
it was received by the Cabinet Office (7 October). The FCO worked
with us throughout the process and were fully consulted throughout.
8. The Cabinet Secretary informed Sir Christopher's
publisher prior to publication on 4 November that it was disappointing
that a former diplomat should disclose confidences gained as a
result of his employment. The Cabinet Secretary went on to say
that it was not his responsibility to check whether remarks attributed
to individuals were accurate and complete. Therefore, the Government
had no comment to make on the book, but this did not constitute
any form of official or unofficial approval.
9. The Foreign Secretary's reply to Gordon
Prentice of 28 November made clear that nothing was specifically
identified that was considered so damaging as to require consideration
of legal action. Therefore, consistent with the Cabinet Secretary's
letter to the publisher, the Government had no comments on the
proposed book, but it did not have any form of official or unofficial
approval. Learning from this experience, future letters of this
kind will make the position on clearance more explicit.
10. The Cabinet Office propose to amend
the Civil Service Management Code to make it clearer and more
explicit that former civil servants must seek the permission of
the Head of their former Department, and the Head of the Home
Civil Service, before entering into a contractual commitment with
a publisher. The Code will also be amended to make it clearer
and more explicit that former civil servants must submit in good
time before any proposed publication, a copy of the proposed text
which they intend to publish and which draws, or appears to draw,
on official information or experience see the memorandum submitted
by the Cabinet Office on 27 March. The Foreign Office has already
clarified obligations and process in their amended Diplomatic
Service Regulations and new Guidance (copies sent to PASC on 8
March. Jack Straw's Written Ministerial Statement of 8 March).
11. In addition, the Cabinet Office set
out its proposals to introduce letters of undertaking for staff
in sensitive posts in its memorandum to the Committee on 27 March.
FCO letters of employment and letters issued on retirement or
resignation now explicitly draw attention to the rules on publications
and duties of confidentiality. All FCO senior staff have been
asked (2 March) to sign an undertaking that they have read and
understood the rules and agree to be bound by them.
Once again, I am really sorry for the delay
in getting this reply to you. Please pass on my apologies to the
chairman and members of the Committee for this oversight.
28 March 2006