Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
MP AND MR
8 MAY 2008
Q600 Mr Prentice: You do not dispute
the fact that the corollary of all that is that a quarter of a
million people would be transferred out of the NHS and into the
Lord Warner: I do dispute that.
I do not think it follows from that policy objective that they
would all suddenly be employed by the private sector. I think
that is nonsense.
Q601 Mr Prentice: You were sold on
the Healthgateway website. In "Meet the Team" you are
right at the top; you are described as "Lord Norman Warner,
expertise and insight in the UK health market."
It then talks about your expertise as Minister of Health and the
fact you led a number of reviews and improvements in the delivery
of UK healthcare. It goes on to say: "You can contact Norman
directly". Do many people contact you directly?
Lord Warner: No. It is a sad fact
that clearly we are not doing terribly well. This hearing may
help a little.
Q602 Mr Prentice: Mr Caborn, I want
to ask about nuclear decommissioning. This is the elephant in
the room, is it not? I have a note here saying that the Financial
Times reported in November that AMEC was part of a consortium
competing for a £5 billion contract to run Sellafield.
We know that you are barred from making any approaches to the
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority until June of this year. What
is your involvement, if any, in nuclear decommissioning?
Mr Caborn: It goes much wider
than that: it is new build and the supply chain in terms of what
AMEC is doing. I have given advice on the problems in South Africa
and the energy gap there. I have advised on the trade unions and
also the planning and regional development agencies in terms of
clean up, reprocessing and new build. Therefore, in all those
areas they have asked for my advice on various aspects.
Q603 Mr Prentice: This is a big issue,
is it not? Mr Haddrill told us when he last spoke that one issue
was the big contracts. We know that the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority faces a bill of £73 billion to clean up nuclear
facilities and that the company that employs you and Mr Ian McCartney
is heavily involved in the bidding process to get these contracts.
My question is very simple: would you pull back from that and
say that you do not want to be involved in it because the British
Government will make a decision that is worth billions of pounds
before the end of the year on the consortium that cleans up nuclear
Mr Caborn: You are wrong.
Q604 Mr Prentice: In what way am
Mr Caborn: The British Government
is not going to make that decision.
Q605 Mr Prentice: Who is to make
Mr Caborn: The NDA will make that
decision. Get your facts correct if you are to ask me questions.
The NDA is a non-departmental
Q606 Mr Prentice: Will you have anything
to do with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority?
Mr Caborn: I have absolutely no
contact with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Q607 Mr Prentice: And you will not
have any contact after June?
Mr Caborn: Your question to me
is predicated on the assertion that the British Government will
make that decision. I am saying that it will not be the British
Government but Parliament through an accountable non-departmental
public body. The accounting officer is Dr Ian Roxburgh who will
come to the House. If you understand how government works, that
is where the decision will be made. The NDA will make that decision.
Q608 Mr Prentice: Let me rephrase
my question. When the one-year period of purdah expires in June
will you make any approach whatsoever to the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority about these nuclear issues?
Mr Caborn: The answer to that
is no because as I understand it the decision will be made on
11 July. That is what the NDA has announced publicly. Therefore,
I shall be making no recommendations or have any influence over
the NDA. I do not think it takes much notice of me anyway, but
that is when the decision will be made.
Q609 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Mr Caborn,
come and lobby me any time you want about Hinckley Point nuclear
power station. You know where I am and I look forward to hearing
from you. We are decommissioning, commissioning and trying to
build a few more. One of the witnesses made the point that nobody
really understands how to lobby. We all get lobbied as MPs; we
are lobbied all the time. It was said that people want us because
they really do not know how to do it themselves. We have all had
the PR companies in here; we all glaze over. I am sure that you
have done the same; you think, "Oh, God! It's a PR company."
If you have a former colleague or Member of the House of Lords
coming in you take it more seriously. You know what you are doing
and know how the game works. Looking at it from the other point
of viewnot that of Mr Flynn and otherssurely a better
way of doing it is to have experts who know what they are talking
about rather than some spotty kid from Pimlico?
Mr Caborn: The answer to that
is yes. When I was chairman of the Select Committee I found that
the memoranda sent in were extremely useful. You are absolutely
right. If you have people with authority, knowledge and understanding
of the subject-matter you take them very seriously. In the various
jobs I have done I have been lobbied thousands of times. There
is no doubt that you place more importance on someone who knows
the subject-matter, and that is why it is so important that industry,
business and commercethe wealth creatorshave a voice
and a much clearer line into this. I have worked in Europe. When
you work in an adversarial system of politics as we do, as opposed
to consensus politics when one works in the institutions of Europe
which is totally different, it is a much more politicised civil
service in terms of lobbying. Influence over regulations and directives
within the European Union is totally different from how you would
influence legislation that goes onto the statute book here. The
adversarial system of politics is different from the one that
operates in Europe and in many other countries round the world.
That is why it is sometimes a bit difficultI read with
a lot of interest the evidence that has been givento think
you can transplant what has happened in the US to here; it just
would not work, but I do believe there is integrity within our
Civil Service and parliamentary institutions which is revered
around the world because of the type of cross-examination we have
here and the system we operate.
Q610 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Can I take
you on to the spotty youths?
Lord Warner: I have never seen
any spotty youths when serving as a minister but I am perfectly
prepared to believe they exist. Your basic point is a sound one.
If you are sitting there as a minister there will be a variety
of people from public and private bodies, including voluntary
ones, who will lobby you about something. On the whole, the people
from whatever sector who do better with ministers are those who
look as though they know what they are talking about and can put
across a coherent argument. Sometimes that is someone from PR;
it can be the director of public relations; it can be a variety
of people, but on the whole your point about competence is absolutely
valid. Having spent 25 years as a civil servant, I would say that
if you are a minister there is a tendency for the Civil Service
to wrap you up in cotton wool to some extent and stop you being
exposed to what might be called more radical opinion on a particular
issue. That is built into the system. I think that the people
who find it most difficult to get their point across to government,
from all sectors, not just the private one, are those on the innovative
edge who are trying to do things differently. Very often they
find it very difficult to get at ministers and put their point
of view. I think we should do nothing that makes it more difficult
for ministers to be exposed to a wide range of opinion.
Q611 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Mr Haddrill,
do you recognise Lord Warner's point about ministers being wrapped
in cotton wool?
Mr Haddrill: Frankly, I do recognise
it. There were one or two honourable exceptions whom we never
quite manage to wrap up. If there is an opportunity to meet a
minister frequently we will bring people from the industry with
us because they will tell the story in a rather different way.
They are very expert and want to get it over. I think that what
we do to some extent is make sure thought waves follow the same
sort of path so that the conversation can happen in half an hour
and important information can be imparted, but it is vitally important
to get people close to the industry into the ministerial room.
Mr Caborn: I can assure you that
Yes Minister is still alive in Whitehall.
Q612 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Is that
not one of the problems? Mr Caborn, you hit on a very important
point. If the Government makes a decision on 11 July my constituency
will probably get two new nuclear power stations; it will be a
hundred years' worth of building, commissioning, running and decommissioning.
That is a major decision. I am delighted that I am being lobbied.
I do resent being lobbied by the spotty youths, but I accept being
lobbied by the head of EDF or whoever because they have a depth
of understanding and know what they are talking about. But if
I was not lobbied I would not know and then the only thing I could
do would be to dig through websites which is the other way of
finding out as Mr Prentice said. Therefore, if the system is working
in that way what would you change? Obviously, you have to lobby
MPs; you must accept that because you have been there. Where are
we going wrongor is there nothing wrong?
Mr Caborn: There is a certain
perception in the general public's mind, but, broadly speaking,
in the past 10 years, looking at what has happened in terms of
codes of conduct, the way that the Advisory Committee on Business
Appointments and so on are working, there is reassurance that
the system is regulated and to a large extent is being policed
and is operating reasonably well. Can it be improved? There is
no doubt that it can always be improved in two ways: one is to
reassure the general public that there is transparency, openness
and integrity and the other is to make sure that you and the rest
of parliamentarians and Whitehall in general are exposed to ideas
and developments, whether it is industry, trade unions or the
voluntary sector. That is absolutely right, because we are making
decisions that affect people's business lives or daily lives.
It is absolutely essential to the democratic process. The adversarial
system that we operate here is somewhat different from what happens
in other countries. Decision-makers in the power chain here are
not as accessible as they are elsewhere.
Q613 Chairman: What do you say about
the proposal that has been put to us for a lobbyist register elsewhere
so that lobbyists have to register but also each lobbying transaction
has to be registered? The point of it is to say that lobbying
is a valuable and necessary activity.
Mr Caborn: What is your definition
Q614 Chairman: But people need to
be reassured that there is not improper access and the only way
to do that is through transparency which a register would provide.
Is there not something in that?
Mr Caborn: I think you would have
to define what lobbying is .
Q615 Mr Prentice: There is a model
in the United States. There is an Act on the statute book which
lists lobbying contacts in the way the Chairman described.
Mr Caborn: But the system in the
States is a totally different one from the one we operate here.
I would ask you: how would that improve the system?
Q616 Chairman: You acknowledge that
there is a problem of public perception and that is the reason
for thinking that transparency may be the answer. If you want
to have transparency you have to think about a mechanism to ensure
that happens and that is the argument for having some kind of
Lord Warner: Is not the problem
what is meant by the word "lobbying"? Its origins have
pejorative overtones. I have been in a state legislature on the
last day of a session when literally in the lobby between the
House of Representatives and the Senate there are hundreds and
hundreds of lobbyists. We do not have that system in this country.
We have to be clear what we mean by a register. Are we to say
that any conversation that Mr Haddrill has, for example, with
a minister or a civil servant above a certain grade or one engaged
in a particular area must be registered? What is the definition
of what you have to register? It seems to me that that is the
challenge facing the Committee. If you devised something that
became a bureaucratic nightmare which led to government ministers
and departments experiencing a reduction in the number of people
with expertise contacting them that would be a bad thing for good
Q617 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Let me
give an example. I refer to Dr Ian Roxbrough of the NDA. He has
been lobbying me to know my thoughts about my constituency in
the future. He is effectively a government-paid official but he
has been lobbying me basically to ask whether my constituency
will take two nuclear power stations. Is that right or wrong?
I suppose that the rhetorical question to ask is: why should he
not do so, and if he did not how would you know? Is that lobbying
Mr Caborn: From your point of
Q618 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Mr Haddrill,
as a former civil servant what do you say?
Mr Haddrill: You really must not
have a register in order just to talk to a minister. It seems
to me that that is cutting government off from people. It also
creates a lobbying profession, if you like. We will be defined
by whether or not we are on the register. I do not believe that
this country or the United States is particularly served by having
a lobbying profession. You must not create rules that absolve
people of the duty to act with integrity. That is a cultural aspect
that you have to find ways to build up. When I was in the Civil
Service I visited a civil servant in the United States. I did
not know the system and I said that I would buy him lunch. He
said I could not do that because it was not allowed. I then suggested
that he should buy me lunch because I was hungry and he said he
was not allowed to do that either. Now you cannot even buy a cup
of coffee. Because the rules in the United States at that time
did not apply to the way in which public officials acted when
abroad I got an email from him a couple of months later which
said he was visiting the UK and asked me whether I could obtain
a couple of tickets for the Arsenal. I thought that was a system
beset by rules but it did not generate any integrity at all.
Q619 Mr Liddell-Grainger: You have
hit the nail on the head, have you not? This is where the anomaly
arises: if you do not lobby you cannot get the message across;
if you do lobby you are castigated. Is the system in this country
with three wise men working just about as well as it will work
without the creation of a stifling system like that in America
which is completely farcical? You cannot even buy a cup of coffee.
Is it about right?
Mr Caborn: I think it is. Mr Flynn
has gone now, but the innuendo was that a minister was leaving
and a big contract was signed to get a job. I just say: produce
the evidence. If there is evidence let us deal with it. Broadly
speaking, I think the system is working. Can it be improved? I
suppose that it can be improved but broadly speaking it works.
I think that it is the perception out there that needs to be addressed.
6 Meet The Team, www.ukhealthgateway.com Back
"Caborn is latest ex-minister to take nuclear job",
Financial Times, 17 November 2007, p 2 Back