Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-126)|
14 JANUARY 2010
Q1 Chairman: Can I extend a warm
welcome to Matt Tee who is the Permanent Secretary, Government
Communications. You have been in post since January last year,
so a year now. I am afraid that one of the things that comes with
the job is having, from time to time, to come in front of this
Committee; this is the first time that you have had to do this,
so it is a pleasure for us. As you know, some years ago we got
ourselves involved in some of these communications issues after
various troubles in the system and that in turn led to the review
by Bob Phillis, whose death recently we mourn. Out of that came
this post of Permanent Secretary, Government Communications. Did
you want to say something to us before we started?
Mr Tee: If that
is all right, Chairman.
Q2 Chairman: Yes, do that, and then
I will start asking questions after that.
Mr Tee: Briefly, as an opening
statement, I would say that I started almost exactly a year ago.
I came from a rather varied background. I have been a communicator
professionally for most of my career but most recently I was the
Chief Executive of NHS Direct and I think that gave me some useful
experience for coming here. I think I see my role as having three
substantial parts to itwhich we will be able to cover todayfirstly
as head of profession for all communicators in government; secondly,
helping the Government to develop capability in new areas such
as digital engagement, behaviour change and citizen insight; I
also oversee the work of the Central Office of Information (COI).
I take a role in the effective co-ordination of substantial cross-government
communication issues; Afghanistan would be an example of some
work I have been doing in recent times. As head of profession
in the last year I sought to have three substantial priorities
which I know from looking at previous evidence to this Committee
will play into some of the areas that you have been interested
in before. Firstly, in the capability of communicators across
Whitehall looking at how we develop our own talent and how we
improve the Government communication service; secondly, looking
within capability at communications being more strategic. I speak
sometimes about the tyranny of the press cuts, the pilot cuts
that land on a minister's desk every day which sometimes drives
the activity when I think we should be thinking more about citizens
as it were. A second priority of mine has been propriety. You
mentioned the events that led to this post being created and I
think the implementation of the Phillis Report has meant that
actually I have to deal with relatively few propriety issues,
but that is only because we maintain an awareness of propriety
across the Government communication network and that takes work.
Thirdly, a priority for me this year has been around efficiency
and value for money and I think looking forward to the public
finance situation that we foresee, that will become increasingly
important. Very briefly, I have two or three reflections on both
the year I have spent but also on coming back into the Civil Service.
I first came into the Civil Service in 1999 at the Department
of Trade and Industry as head of news and I would reflect that
communicators in government are, across the board, more capable
now than they were when I first came into government communications.
I think communicators undertake far more roles and have a far
greater scope than they did when I first came in. It would be
absolutely true to sayI am sure we will get into thisthat
there are more of us and we spend more on communications in government
than we did in 1999. I think the real difference for me is that
when I first came into government, although it was not quite true
that a policy official would develop a White Paper, hand it to
you and ask you for a press release, it was not far enough away
from the truth, and I think where we are now is much more central
to policy and the delivery of public services. When I look at
issues, from my background in health particularly, such as smoking,
drinking, sexual health, strokes and so on, communications is
seen as a central part of managing to achieve government priorities
around those in a way that I do not think it was a number of years
ago. The final thing I would like to say is just to give one example
of where I think we can show that over time the focus of communications
in government has shifted from what some might have characterised
as spin in the past, to being absolutely about helping citizens
to understand public services. An example I would use is Lord
Darzi, the Health Minister's, consultation on health services
in London where one of the great examplesI was there to
see thiswas a deliberative event he held where the question
really was: if you had a stroke would you prefer to be taken to
the nearest accident and emergency department or would you prefer
to go past that accident and emergency department to the nearest
accident and emergency department that had a specialist stroke
unit? Seeing people in that room deliberating on the pros and
cons of that, using data to do that, all supported by government
communicators, I think is a really good example of where communications
can add value not only to the work of government but to the citizens'
understanding of their public services.
Q3 Chairman: Thank you very much
for that. You mentioned there were these issues about the size
of this operation. I think we thought when this post was created
that you would be telling us in a way that we could understand
every year what the size of the Government's communication effort
was by department, who was doing what, and yet the figures are
not clear at all. There is no such source where we can go to easily
find this; there is no report given to Parliament. Some figures
that were produced for the House of Lords committee looking at
this divided it between communication staff and press officers
and we find that both had increased by around 72% between 1998
and September 2008. We know there has been a huge growth, which
is one thing we could talk to you about, but why can we not just
have these figures in some easily understandable, reliable form?
Mr Tee: I am going to explain
why I think it is difficult and then I am going to explain what
I am doing to make it easier. There are two reasons that make
it difficult. The first is that I am not the accounting officer
for the number of staff employed in communications across government.
Each permanent secretary in a department is responsible for their
own staffing and resources and makes those decisions accountable
to their own ministers. That means it is difficult for me to either
give you a number for which I am responsible or indeed to control
Q4 Chairman: You are the head of
profession so you really should know how many people you are the
Mr Tee: I think I have a pretty
good idea of how many people I am the head of. What we have done,
Chairman, in the year that I have been hereI think this
is partly driven by where we are going to go in public financesis
to have built substantially on the community that is the directors
of communications in each of the departments. What I have got
them signed up to now is some proper benchmarking between departments
which will enable us to clarify definitions of who is a communicator
and also then to compare between departments on those numbers.
We are working with the Treasury (through the OEP
scheme on that) and with the National Audit Office. I am working
to a position where we can get auditable numbers that will enable
you to get the year-on-year comparison that you want. A part of
the problem with thatand interestingly Treasury and the
National Audit Office now accept thisis the definition
of who is a communicator? One of the things that has been a great
success of my post is that not only have we built capability within
professional communicators, actually we have built capability
in communications across the Civil Service. We now have a substantial
number of civil servants who do jobs which you and I would probably
describe as communication jobs who may not see themselves as career
communicators. I point to speech writers as being a frequent example
of that. Ministerial speech writers are often policy officials
who move into speech writing for a year or so and then they move
back to a policy job. In my terms they are doing a communications
job, no question. In their terms they are doing one job in a series
of jobs in their policy career.
Q5 Chairman: I understand that in
some cases there are problems of definition and there are career
posts, but there are a lot of people who are recruited to do communications
workcommunications specialists, that is what they doand
we should be able to know how many such people there are. This
figure of a growth of 72% in such people over the last 10 years,
is that one that we are working to?
Mr Tee: I would say that was a
slight underestimate. My view would be that if you looked at the
people who are dedicated communicators and you started from 1997-98
to the current day, the growth in the number of people employed
in government who are in that sense professional communicators
would be a bit greater than 72%.
Q6 Chairman: That is an extraordinary
Mr Tee: I think it is a very substantial
growth and I think I would point to three reasons why that growth
has taken place. The first thing to say is that what professional
communicators do in government now has expanded considerably.
If you go back to 1997-98 the web was a very new discipline for
us within government and actually the majority of people who worked
in web in government sat in IT departments; they do not now, they
generally sit in communication departments and there are more
of them because we understand the potential of using the internet
to communicate with people. The second thing I would say is that
there has been a growth in press officers and this is partly because
we now have a greater diversity of mediawe have the internet
as a media channel so we have more channels and so onbut
also I think we have become much more pro-active with our use
of press officers and our use of press officers in the media.
If I give you an example of that, if you go back to 1999 when
I ran a press office in Whitehall we were largely reactive. We
would put out a press release for the ministerial announcement
of the day and we would take calls from the media. I was over
at the Home Office just recently seeing their team who had been
working with the policy team who do violence against women and
girls and their press office team had set up a whole pro-active
series of partnerships with young women's magazines in order to
highlight the elements of this campaign. If I go back to 1999
we just would not have had the capacity to have done something
like that pro-actively, very much aimed at an audience which government
was targeting a particular policy at. I think there has been a
very substantial growth but I have to say that when I go round
to departments and I visit press offices and other areas of communication
I do not find people sitting there looking for something to do;
they are very busy. The final area I would just mentionbecause
I think it has been a major area of growth for usis the
area of internal communication, where I think again if you go
back to 1999 internal communication was almost always a discipline
which sat within an HR function. I do not think it is now; it
is really seen as an important communication function. If you
look at capability reviews across Whitehall and studies of capability
across Whitehall the best departments are those where staff are
most engaged and that is as a result of internal communication,
so it has been a substantial growth area for us.
Q7 Chairman: When you read newspaper
headlineswhich you do all the time because your job is
to read newspaper headlineslike, and I have one here, "Wages
of spin under Labour is £220m a year", which is the
Daily Telegraph talking about the huge growth in the number
of people doing communications and press work, do you groan when
you see those sorts of headlines?
Mr Tee: I groan at the use of
the word "spin". I think there is a very legitimate
conversation to be had about the resourcing of government communications,
and given the public expenditure climate that we face and the
reduction in public expenditure, how we reduce the amount we spend
on communications is a very legitimate question. The bit that
I do groan at is the use of the word "spin" because
I do not see the people who I am the professional head of as doing
spin. I think spin is not something that I feel is part of the
Q8 Chairman: So when you hear Nick
Hurd, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, saying, "Gordon
Brown's promise of the end of spin has been exposed as a sham.
He now spends more taxpayers' money on spin than Tony Blair. Labour
has bankrolled a vast spin machine, politicised the Civil Service
and created a corrosive culture of deception at the heart of Whitehall",
you must groan even more.
Mr Tee: I would not wish to comment
particularly on the comments of an opposition spokesperson but,
as I say, I do not accept that what the resource spent on government
communications does is spin. If I can give an example of another
press officeI think press offices is where the allegation
of spin is very much centredthe Department for Work and
Pensions right now has a team of press offices (because of the
cold weather going back to just after Christmas reallocated responsibilities)
whose job it is to be in touch with key newspapers and broadcast
outlets so that when they do stories about the cold snap they
include within those stories information about cold weather payments
for older people. That is their job. For me that is really proper
public service communication; that is ensuring that a really important
message to a really important part of the community is conveyed
within the blizzard (sorry, no pun intended) of broadcaster media
coverage around the cold snap. That, to me, just is not spin;
that is just very proper public service communication which is
the sort of thing we should be doing.
Q9 Paul Rowen: With respect on that
issue, the figures for the numbers of pensioners who are entitled
to cold weather payments and are not claiming them have actually
been released by my party. If these people are doing their job
properly that should have been highlighted. There are between
1.4 and 1.7 million pensioners who are entitled to cold weather
payment. We do not need 150 press officers at the Department for
Work and Pensions to do that.
Mr Tee: There are not 150 press
officers doing this.
Q10 Paul Rowen: That is according
to the Telegraph.
Mr Tee: I do not think there are
150 press officers in the Department for Work and Pensions but
I can find the accurate figure for you if you would like me to.
However, what I would say is that it would be disproportionate
if 150 press officers were working on ensuring that older people
were aware of cold weather payments because, as you say, it would
be a disproportionate number, but I do think it is valid at a
time when the media will be highlighting the cold weather that
a proportionate resource at the Department for Work and Pensions
is highlighting the issue, ensuring that, as part of the rest
of its coverage, the media is aware of the availability of cold
weather payments for pensioners.
Q11 Chairman: Do you think it would
be possible for you to work under an alternative government?
Mr Tee: Yes, absolutely.
Q12 Chairman: Even under someone
who says that you are the head of a vast spin machine?
Mr Tee: I would hope that if the
Government were to change I would be able to demonstrate to a
government of any colour the value of the communication work that
we do. I would look forward to having that engagement and having
that discussion. Some of what we are talking about here is a growth
in the spend on communication as a result of government policy.
Were government policy to change you could spend less on government
Q13 Chairman: I look at these figures
and, for example, it says here that there are 242 press officers
in the Ministry of Defence. What on earth are they doing?
Mr Tee: Again, I do not think
there are 242.
Q14 Chairman: You say you do not
think there are; that does not inspire confidence.
Mr Tee: If you and I were to go
to the Ministry of Defence now and walk around their press office
and see the 240 people who are referred to there and ask them
what their actual jobs are, I think you would find that relatively
few of them spend their time speaking to the media about MoD policy.
At the MoD they have a very substantial media effort because,
for example, out in theatrefor example Afghanistanyou
have a continuing series of media embedsjournalists who
are embedded out with armed forcesand they need people
who, I guess, would count as press officers, many of whom are
serving military, to accompany them to help them understand what
they are seeing. The Ministry of Defence and its operations is
Q15 Chairman: It just makes the point
about the need for some really reliable information on this. It
is in your interests to do that because at the moment you are
just getting all these bad headlines, and there has been this
huge growth in numbers.
Mr Tee: I accept that and, as
I say, I am doing some work to get us to a point where we have
figures which the NAOthe Government's auditorswill
recognise as being comparable.
Q16 Julie Morgan: I want to ask you
about your communications role in the run up to the General Election.
Before I do that, you have used a few examples which are important
ways that the Government has to communicate and in particular
you spoke early on about this event about Lord Darzi's health
policy, which is a very good example. In the period that you have
been in post, can you give us an example of something you think
has gone badly wrong and where government communications have
Mr Tee: I cannot highlight something
I think has gone badly wrong but I think if I were being critical
of our work in retrospect I would say that some of our communications
around the recession and how government was helping people could
have been better targeted around the citizen and not around government
departments. I think there was a period where, if you had lost
your job and you were in danger of losing your house or perhaps
you were running a small business, there was a danger that you
were getting multiple messages from different government departments.
In retrospect, as government, we should have said that the person
who is losing their job who Jobcentre Plus are seeking to help
is probably the same person that we may need to be helping with
mortgage support, for example, and should we not join up that
communication because it is aimed at one sort of citizen. In retrospect
that is an area where I would say I think we could do better in
Q17 Julie Morgan: So the message
was not clear.
Mr Tee: I think the message was
generally clear although it was very fast moving; we were coming
up with new schemes to meet new circumstances very quickly. What
I think was that if you were that person who was in danger of
losing their job it was like the Government dropping four leaflets
through your door when they should have dropped one.
Q18 Julie Morgan: To move onto your
role now in the run up to the General Election, how do you see
that period? Do you have any views you would like to give us about
how you feel you would be working during that period.
Mr Tee: I think we are in that
period now; we all know there will be a General Election by June.
To a large extent I am carrying on with the priorities that I
have had for the last year so it seems to me that it is important
in a pre-election periodbut it is important at all timesthat
Civil Service communicators are only doing those things which
are proper for civil servants and that we are spending public
money in a way which is proper. Propriety is important to me.
Largely, because of the work that has been done on Phillis, that
is a maintenance role for me rather than having to reinforce it
or intervene all the time. I would also say that whoever wins
the General Election, I envisage having less resource for communication
in the future. I am working with communication directors in all
departments about how we will attempt to maintain the effectiveness
of communications in government whilst having less resource to
do it. So there is some of that work which is on-going. We have
just issued guidance to departments about what will happen when
the General Election is called and I have been working on that
guidance with our propriety and ethics team. It is important that
communicators are clear about how the world changes on the day
the election is called, for example.
Q19 Julie Morgan: I understand there
was a press report that suggests that government communications
will be monitored in the run up to the election. Who would be
doing that monitoring?
Mr Tee: I am afraid I am not familiar
with the press reports. I guess I feel it is part of my role to
monitor government communications across the board because one
of the important parts of my role is that I am responsible for
that communication being proper and for us only using resource
on those areas where it is proper. I am not aware of somebody
else scrutinising us particularly.
Q20 Julie Morgan: So you see yourself
as carrying on as you have been.
Mr Tee: As we have seen from the
beginning of the year, the political media becomes more active
in the run up to a General Election. I think there is always in
that a need to maintain propriety and that the Civil Service is
keenly aware of the difference between government communication
and political communication.
Q21 Chairman: I have a chart here
showing government advertising spend over the last 25 years and
it shows, with the single exception of 1991-92, spending on advertising
rose in every year immediately prior to an election and in every
case it fell following the election. Do you think that is just
Mr Tee: What I would saycertainly
for me in doing this job now and I cannot speak for the period
before any of those other General Elections because I was not
doing the job, as it wereis that I, with the chief executive
of COI who reports to me, take a very keen interest in what we
are spending our advertising money on. Last year, for example,
there was a very substantial jump in the amount of money spent
on advertising and the amount of money spent through COI and I
asked the chief executive of COI to give me the rationale for
why that was, and it is actually pretty simple to explain. There
were some substantial campaigns that we were carrying out already
which evaluate very well on which we spent more money, so tobaccosmoking
cessation, as it wereroad safety, act on CO2 and particularly
armed forces recruitment in 2008-09 spent more than they had done
previously. But we also launched some major new campaigns, so
the Department of Health's obesity Change for Life campaign
launched in a very big way in 2008-09 having done some very, very
detailed research on its effectiveness before it launched. The
stroke campaign, which has proved to be very successful, launched
last year. There was a big campaign about new apprenticeships
and we also launched the environmental performance certificates
in that year. Those campaigns made up the absolute majority of
the spending and the increase in spending through COI. Having
looked at those campaigns I do not see a way in which they could
be construed as being party political.
Q22 Chairman: So it was just as it
happened, the fact that we get this big increase in spend in a
Mr Tee: If ministers decide, based
on advice from officials, that they wish to expand a communications
campaign around a particular government policy area, I think it
is legitimate for them to do that. What I have to do is to be
sure that that is legitimately supporting the policy area and
is not about party political advantage.
Q23 Chairman: Do you not think you
should say, "Actually I don't think we should spend more
in a pre-election year than we spent the year before because,
if we do that, the trust in the whole operation will be diminished"?
Mr Tee: I am not the person who
spends the moneybecause the money is spent in departmentstherefore
I do not have a way of imposing a cap like that.
Q24 Chairman: You are the guardian
of propriety, are you not?
Mr Tee: Yes, and the way that
I guard the propriety is by ensuring that I am comfortable that
the campaign activity that we undertake is a proper way of supporting
a government policy objective and does not give party political
Q25 Mr Prentice: Has a campaign ever
been vetoed, where the minister has been told that we are just
too close to a General Election for you to even contemplate running
this particular campaign?
Mr Tee: We have been working on
this sort of thing for a long time but I am not aware of a campaign
that has ever been actually vetoed. What happens a lot is that
we have a discussion about whether a campaign would be appropriate,
so it is early advice and sometimes campaigns do not take place,
as it were. Certainly there are campaigns that would not take
place too close to a General Election; once we get a General Election
called very few campaigns will take place.
Q26 Mr Prentice: What do you think
about Jonathon Baume's comments about using the Treasury to rubbish
the Opposition's figures on the performance of economy and so
on? This was Alistair Darling wearing his Labour Party hat rather
than his Chancellor of the Exchequer hat?
Mr Tee: I think that the guidance
on the costing of opposition policies pre-General Election is
clear and Gus O'Donnell has re-issued guidance after that.
Q27 Mr Prentice: Was there any discussion
on that particular issue within the "mandarin-ate".
Mr Tee: It was highlighted in
the newspapers as a concern and so of course there was discussion
Q28 Mr Prentice: Did you have any
concerns about it?
Mr Tee: What was done by the Treasury
fell within the guidelines on costing opposition policies and
I think both Gus as Cabinet Secretary and Nick Macpherson at the
Treasury felt that the costing that was done was in line with
the guidelines. The guidelines say that the costing, having been
done by Treasury, the presentational aspects are down to the political
party and I was not involved in the presentation of those figures,
nor were government communicators.
Q29 Mr Prentice: So maybe in a month's
time or two months' time when the Liberal DemocratsVince
Cablebring their costings, it would be legitimate in these
circumstances for the Treasury to be brought in to examine them
and discredit them if needs be?
Mr Tee: It would depend whether
we were into an election period as I understand it.
Q30 Mr Prentice: What is the election
period? Under election law we have the long campaign which has
already started and we have the short campaign.
Mr Tee: The election period begins
when Parliament is prorogued.
Q31 Mr Prentice: Is that sufficient
safeguard? You could have a very, very short campaign of three
weeks but in reality an election campaign has started now.
Mr Tee: As I understand itthis
is really a matter for the Treasury; I do not get involved in
the presentation of those figures so the propriety of it is not
a matter for megiven that the Treasury would, if asked
by a Member of Parliament what a policy might cost, would give
those figures but it seems that the Treasury, if asked by a minister,
would cost policies in the same way.
Q32 Paul Rowen: What do you do to
ensure that what information is put out is accurate? According
to the Sunday Times the Home Office is being investigated
at the moment by Ofcom for an advert that was put out in the Government's
policing pledge which claimed that 80% of officers' time was spent
on the beat.
Mr Tee: There are two things we
do there. Firstly, as part of the work that I do routinely across
the government communication network on propriety, we stress the
importance of honesty and integrity and of using figures that
stand up to scrutiny. I work very closely with the National Statistician,
for example, on the release of statistics and the statistical
code and so on.
Q33 Paul Rowen: Is something like
that spin? Clearly anybody with any information about what police
officers do know that that is not the case.
Mr Tee: I am not familiar with
the evidential basis on which that campaign was produced. Clearly
if Ofcom felt that it had breached the advertising code, I would
be concerned about it.
Q34 Paul Rowen: What about the advert
that the Department for Children, Schools and Families put out
last year claiming a diploma was accepted by all universities
when it clearly was not? How are you going to ensure that that
sort of thing, which is deliberately misleading, does not happen
Mr Tee: I emphasise, as head of
profession, that our communications should be honest and based
on integrity and have a good evidential base. I also look in the
case of paid-for publicity to the chief executive of COI to be
ensuring that advertising we do falls into that. If there are
instances where we fall short of that, then that is not good and
that is something we will review and see what steps we need to
take in order to ensure that what we do is honest and full of
Q35 Paul Rowen: To give you another
example, the Home Office are piloting identity cards in the Manchester
region and telling people they can use these in place of their
passports. These have been paid for in adverts that have appeared.
Before Christmas people contacted me to say that going on holiday
they were not accepted. That is a clear example of where an advert
Mr Tee: I am not familiar with
that advert and clearly we would not want to be spending public
money on something that was misleading, and we certainly would
not want to be spending public money on something which was untrue.
I would be very happy to have a conversation with the Home Office
and write to the Committee about that particular example if that
would be helpful.
Q36 Mr Burrowes: Going back to the
coming election period and the concern for the campaign being
used for party political advantage, that also covers brands as
well. I think you communicated your view to the press concerning
use of the Government branded Building Britain's Future
by Labour using it on their website as a logo, is that not a blatant
use by a party of a government brand for their own advantage?
Mr Tee: I am absolutely clear
in the case of Building Britain's Future that that is a
government brand and were anybody to use that brand in a way which
was improper or which implied ownership by anybody other than
the Government I would feel that that was improper and I would
take steps to address it.
Q37 Mr Burrowes: Have you done so,
given that the Labour website has a page entitled Building
Britain's Future that sports the same logo used? Have you
Mr Tee: If I am right, based on
the most recent information I have, the page on the Labour Party
website references Building Britain's Future as a government
document and links to it. I think that is not inappropriate and
a lot of other people have linked to Building Britain's Future.
What I would be concerned at is Labour or any other party or any
other organisation seeking to somehow claim ownership or sponsorship
of a government brand.
Q38 Mr Burrowes: In the same website
when it is talking about the Labour Government creating a "fairer,
stronger and more prosperous society" and so forth and also,
interestingly, cleaning up politics as well, is there not a concern
about using that brand? I think in your own words you responded
by saying, "If we reached a position when someone else used
it, I'd have to consider the risk that citizens could be confused
about where the messages are coming from". Surely if it is
on a Labour Party website with the same logo, citizens are going
to be confused into thinking it is coming from the Labour Party
and associate the two together and it is affecting the integrity
of the Civil Service not least?
Mr Tee: If, on a website, it makes
clear that what it is referring to is a government document and
a piece of government policy, then I am comfortable with that.
Q39 Mr Burrowes: Let us move onto
the money side of things. Can you just give some figure about
how much is the marketing and communications bill?
Mr Tee: The total bill for marketing
and communications in government?
Q40 Mr Burrowes: Yes.
Mr Tee: I am afraid I cannot,
because so much of the money which I think you and I would feel
was marketing and communications is now not spent out of a marketing
or communications budget. If I give you an example, when I was
head of communications at the Department of Health, the vast majority
of the money spent on what I think we would all consider to be
communicationsso, for example, the smoking campaign or
the work on obesity or strokes or teenage pregnancy or any of
those thingscame out of the policy budgets for those areas
and not out of my communication budget. So at any one time it
is actually very difficult to aggregate together all of those
figures across the patch.
Q41 Mr Burrowes: Were you asked to
give any information to the Pre-Budget Report?
Mr Tee: In what sense?
Q42 Mr Burrowes: The Pre-Budget Report
says that the marketing and communications budget will be cut
by 25%. How were they able to make that assertion if we do not
have a clue what the marketing and communications budget is?
Mr Tee: I think that is a very
reasonable point. The pledge in the Pre-Budget Report came out
of a piece of work I referenced earlier, which was working with
the Treasury efficiency team I have been beginning to carry out
some benchmarking work across departments which will get us to
the figure that you are looking for.
Q43 Mr Burrowes: What is that figure?
What is a 25% cut?
Mr Tee: I do not actually know
what that figure is.
Q44 Mr Burrowes: So it is pretty
meaningless in the Pre-Budget Report for them to say there will
be a 25% cut of something they do not they are cutting.
Mr Tee: Except that what I have
agreed with the Treasury is a short piece of work that gets us
to what a base line figure is that the 25% comes off.
Q45 Mr Burrowes: Is it the case that
it is what the Prime Minister says when he says he is looking
to find £650 million cuts to consultants and media managers?
Is that accurate?
Mr Tee: That consultant's figure
is separate from the communications figure.
Q46 Mr Burrowes: So that £650
million cuts is not the totality of the 25% cuts to the media
and communications bill.
Mr Tee: No, because it also includes
the pledge to cut 50% off consultancy within government.
Q47 Mr Burrowes: Which is how much?
Mr Tee: I do not know.
Q48 Mr Burrowes: Do you have details
at least of the numbers of the consultants and media managers
which make up the £650 million cuts the Prime Minister has
Mr Tee: The consultancy part of
this is not media consultancy, it is management consultancy.
Q49 Mr Burrowes: Would you be able
to get the details of those media managers and consultants that
make up £650 million?
Mr Tee: The consultants are not
my responsibility; that is management and policy consultancy and
I think the Office for Government Commerce has taken the responsibility
for the 50% cut in those figures. What I would be very happy to
do when, in the next couple of months, I have reached a baseline
understanding with Treasury of where the 25% cut will come from,
is to write to the Committee indicating what that looks like.
Q50 Mr Burrowes: Just to go back
to the totality of the bill, when it is suggested by Nick Hurd
that the PR bill is now approaching a quarter of a billion pounds,
it is hard to rebut that figure when you do not have a figure
to suggest what the communications and marketing bill is.
Mr Tee: Yes, I think that is reasonable
to say. I think Nick Hurd, in the work I have seen from him, does
not define what he means by PR and so I find it difficult to know
on what basis he has compiled the quarter of a billion figure.
From both sides I think the definitional issue makes it difficult
for me to rebut it.
Q51 Mr Burrowes: We had your predecessor
giving evidence to the Committee in November 2006, "trying
to ensure that we have a trusted and authoritative government
communications function". Surely one of your responsibilities
and functions is to ensure there is accurate information for all
concerned, which is no doubt going to lead to commentary and comment
by politicians and the media, so surely it is incumbent on you,
particularly as we are dealing with issues of finance and cuts
at the moment, to come forward with accurate and trusted information.
Mr Tee: Yes. I do not disagree
with that. I think the complexity of the definitional issues makes
that a piece of work which is not trivial. I have begun that piece
of work and I do hope to reach a definition and some numbers which
will do what you ask.
Q52 Mr Burrowes: When will that be
Mr Tee: We have begun the benchmarking
work with the Treasury and the National Audit Office. There are
others outside government I would like to consult about definitions,
because I think we should also be able to benchmark between government
and other areas of public service and between government and the
private sector where that is possible. Having done that, I would
hope to be in a position where I felt that I had comparable data
within six months.
Q53 Mr Burrowes: After the election?
Mr Tee: Yes.
Q54 Chairman: Just on the pre-election
propriety question, I see you are quoted here as saying, "I
am responsible for propriety in government comms and I encourage
civil servants to come to me if they have concerns about activities
on which they are working. I would hope that these cases do not
increase in the run up to the General Election." Do you get
civil servants who raise propriety issues with you?
Mr Tee: Yes; we have a very tried
and tested system laid out in the Phillis Report of an escalation
process for concerns about propriety. What we have set up is a
sort of propriety triage team where anybody in a department who
feels they have a question about whether something is proper or
not can refer it for a very quick overview from the people in
my team. We work very closely with the propriety and ethics team
within the Cabinet Office. It tends to be in the form of early
advice as opposed to having to intervene to veto something, for
example. I cannot recall a situation in the last year where I
have had to intervene in order to stop something from happening.
Q55 Chairman: Is there an increase
in such approaches in the run up to an election?
Mr Tee: There is an increase in
questions about what might be permissible during an election campaign
or not in the run up to the election. I would not say there is
an increase in day to day questions about propriety issues.
Q56 Kelvin Hopkins: Looking at the
figures for the expenditure on advertising through the Central
Office for Information which the Chairman referred to, during
John Major's term of office that fell to a 30 year low. In the
first four years of Tony Blair's Government the figure trebled;
it peaked just at the time of the 2001 General Election. Was that
really objective advertising for public information purposes to
help to stop smoking for example, or was that something to do
Mr Tee: I was not doing this job
in the run up to 2001 so I cannot say from my own personal accountability
whether it was or it was not, but what I do know is that there
have always been checks in place to ensure that government advertising
is a proper use of public money and, as a result of the Phillis
Inquiry particularly, that we strengthen those checks. What I
would say about government advertising is that we have changed
significantly the use of advertising in the course of the last
10 or 12 years. If you go back to 1999when I first came
into governmentwe used advertising almost always to raise
awareness. What we use advertising now is very much more as a
central plank of policy implementation. If we take obesity, as
I was at the Department of Health, the work that the team did
on obesity came up with a range of interventions which might prevent
a child from becoming obese or help a child that was obese or
close to obese to become less so. As one of those interventions
we used marketing and communications but we also set up the Swim
for Life campaign and so on where we gave free swimming to
children. So advertising is now seen, I think, by policy teams
as being one of a range of tools they have for achieving their
policy objectives, not just for raising awareness of a piece of
Q57 Kelvin Hopkins: I am trying to
draw a clear distinction with genuine public information films.
In the immediate post-war era, which I just remember myself, public
information films were all very helpful, about eating properly
for example. In those days we had also rationing which stopped
us eating too many sweets!
Mr Tee: You mention eating properly
and one of the things we now understand isand this plays
into part of my role to do with how government achieves behaviour
changethat advertising on healthy eating is probably not
one of the most effective ways of getting people to eat more healthily.
For example, in school canteens where food is placed in the school
canteen probably has a greater effect on what children eat at
lunchtime than government advertising.
Q58 Kelvin Hopkins: I do not want
to be diverted into detail, but just suppose public information
films do help us to eat more healthily, that is fine, but that
is not what a lot of the spending is about. Is it not really about
public relations, about propaganda, about manipulating the media,
making sure that they get the right messages from government about
the wonderful things they are doing?
Mr Tee: I really do not think
it is. I think if you look at the major areas of spend through
the Central Office of Information in last or indeed in recent
years what you will see is that the big areas of spend were on
armed forces recruitment, on work from the Health Department (particularly
around smoking, obesity and stroke), around the Act on CO2 campaign
coming out of Defra and DEC. It is those sorts of areas which
I think are what you have referred to as public information.
Q59 Kelvin Hopkins: Going back to
the beginning, you used a phraseand alarm bells started
to ring with me when you said"helping citizens to
understand public services". That definitely has a kind of
New Labour-ish flavour: the people have got to have it explained
to make sure they get the message right. Helping citizens understand
public services sounds innocent, but then you went on to say "So
that they understand, for example, they might want to choose a
different hospital if they have a stroke". Quite frankly,
if I have a stroke I do not want to fill in a questionnaire; I
want to be taken to be looked after immediately and I would like
to think before I had the stroke that all the hospitals would
do a good job and we did not have to make a choice and tick a
Mr Tee: I am afraid, Mr Hopkins,
that the plain fact of the matter is that not every hospital is
as good at treating strokes and the government policy response
to that was to designate certain hospitals as stroke centres.
The conversation with the people was: would you prefer to be taken
to a hospital that was a stroke centre? Overwhelmingly people
said they would rather drive past the hospital they had hoped
was good at everything and get to a stroke centre.
Q60 Mr Walker: Who is doing the driving?
Mr Tee: An ambulance.
Q61 Mr Walker: Surely the ambulance
would take them to the best hospital for treating strokes. They
can have a chat with the patient.
Mr Tee: They are not going to
have a chat with the patient. This was something I covered in
my opening which was about a piece of work with the public that
Lord Darzi did to consult with the public. I used to work in the
ambulance service a number of years ago and it used to be the
policy that you took any emergency to the nearest hospital. We
are now in a position, particularly on stroke, where an ambulance
crew would take the patient, without having the conversation with
them, to the nearest specialist stroke unit. That has been a change
of government policy but that is a change in government policy
that is right that the Government has a conversation with the
citizen about because it is different to a suggestion that every
hospital is equally good at treating every situation.
Q62 Mr Prentice: In this deliberative
event that you told us about with Lord Darzi, did any members
of the public say, "I would prefer money to be spent on my
local accident and emergency department so that they can treat
my stroke?" Did anyone say that or were you leading?
Mr Tee: People did say that.
Q63 Mr Prentice: What was your response?
Mr Tee: I was not leading the
event; I was merely an observer at the event. The purpose of the
event was to work through what most people thought with the information
they had before them. Yes there was a body of opinion that said
"I think every hospital should have a stroke unit" and
there was then a conversation that took place about whether they
were prepared to pay for it through their taxes and that was the
sort of discourse that was taking place in the event.
Q64 Kelvin Hopkins: The flavour of
what you were saying struck me as being sub-text promotion of
the "choice agenda", which is a political decision to
promote a choice agenda rather than universal public services,
all good for everybody.
Mr Tee: If that is government
policy then it is legitimate for government to publicise the availability
of that choice.
Q65 Kelvin Hopkins: Is your job about
persuading the public on government policy or just neutrally presenting
Mr Tee: I think my job is to support
the Government in promoting its policy and ensuring understanding
of it. In the case of choice within the health service, given
that there is a government policy which people have choice about,
for example, which hospital they are treated at, I think it is
legitimate that public money is spent in helping people to exercise
Q66 Kelvin Hopkins: You are a persuader
but you have not persuaded me on that point. We have had a study
in our Select Committee on the language used in politics and I
almost throw things at the television screen when I hear public
statements from government full of judgmental terms. We do not
have a Department of Education any more; it used to be a Department
for Education which has a flavour about it. Children, Schools
and Families are warm words, like motherhood and apple pie. The
whole flavour of government statements in recent years strikes
me as being an endless propaganda exercise meant to persuade us
and lead us in particular directions, rather than using neutral
terms. I use one example: we had this silly term "Jobcentre
Plus"; what about the Employment Office? Employment Office
is neutral; what does Jobcentre Plus mean? I could mention dozens
of phrases like that used by government. Every year it seems we
invent new terms for government departments; it is not the Board
of Trade, it is Business, Innovation and Skills and so on. Do
you see your job as softening up the public to get them to accept
government policy or simply presenting it?
Mr Tee: I see my job as supporting
the Government in implementing its policy. Not everybody will
agree with all elements of that policy and if they do not agree
with elements of that policy they might not agree with some of
the communication about that policy. In the case of the Department
for Children, Schools and Families what it reflected was a widening
in the remit beyond education. It does explain a difference in
the department. If I might just pick up on the language questionI
know this Committee has done considerable work about languageI
do think that within government we still speak in a language sometimes
which is impenetrable for the public which is not based on clear
communication and I certainly see part of my role as being to
help people across the Civil Service understand the benefits of
communicating clearly to the public.
Q67 Kelvin Hopkins: You say that
but I think the public would understand Employment Office rather
better than Jobcentre Plus. What does the Plus mean for a start?
Mr Tee: The plus means that you
get more there than you used to get at an old Job Centre.
Mr Walker: Why not the "Employment
Office and Benefits" because that is the extra bit?
Q68 Chairman: Have you thought about
sending a little glossary across Whitehall of all these terms
not to use? It would be helpful, would it not? Let us get rid
of "going forward" and "win win" and "across
the piece" and all that kind of stuff. Could you not send
a memo out saying, "For goodness' sake, don't use this sort
Mr Tee: What we know is that one
of the least effective ways of getting the whole of the Civil
Service to do something is actually by sending out a little memo.
I think you are right, Chairman, I would like us to use less of
those sorts of phrases that the public find a turn off or less
meaningful, but we have to do it in a way which means that for
the fast stream, for example, we are making it clear to new fast
streamers that communicating clearly in a way that your mother
or your sister would understand is an important part of their
Q69 Mr Prentice: What about this
20 page document that was circulated in Whitehall advising civil
servants on how to tweet?
Mr Tee: It is actually rather
a good document.
Q70 Mr Prentice: Twenty pages on
Mr Tee: It is 20 pages on the
use of social media. What I said on it was that I thought the
only thing that the chap who wrote itwho I think is very
talentedhad done wrong was that he had not done a tweet
of the content of the document. I think if he could encapsulate
it in 140 characters it would have been good.
Q71 Mr Prentice: Do you tweet?
Mr Tee: I have a Twitter account
and I follow a lot of people; I tweet very occasionally.
Q72 Mr Prentice: Who do you tweet
Mr Tee: A number of civil servants
I think follow me. One of the things about Twitter is that generally
it is open to anybody to see my tweets and to follow me.
Q73 Mr Prentice: Do you tweet Gus
Mr Tee: I do not know if Gus has
a Twitter account.
Q74 Mr Prentice: Does he tweet back?
Mr Tee: Certainly I have never
seen a tweet from Gus. I think my tweets are rather boring.
Q75 Mr Prentice: At the very beginning
Julie asked about flops, if I can put it that way. You said you
were involved in NHS Direct; you had an interest in sexual health
and so on. Was there not some experiment about sending out text
messages to young people about safe sex which just did not get
Mr Tee: I cannot recall the specific
Q76 Mr Prentice: You must recall
something like that.
Mr Tee: If it had been as bad
as you suggest then I might. What I would say is that I think,
within government, we should be looking to new ways of communicating
with different parts of citizenship and teenage girls are a key
place for us to wish to communicate with for all sorts of reasons.
They tend to drink more than they should; they have sex in ways
which are unhealthy for them and so on. So ways of reaching young
women are a communication challenge for us. If somebody says,
"I have a new technology or a new channel which may help
you to reach 16 to 24 year old women" then it is a good thing
for us to try it. What we should do is know what success looks
like and if we do not succeed to stop.
Q77 Mr Prentice: You tried and you
abandoned it because it failed.
Mr Tee: I do not think that is
a bad thing. I think the bad thing would be if you carried on
doing something which did not work.
Q78 Chairman: That is an area worth
exploring for a minute. We have talked about the spend and the
numbers of people involved, but there is the question of effectiveness,
what are we getting for this money? I wonder how you evaluate
whether stuff is working. If you are a commercial company and
you spend a lot of money on your advertising budget you can see
that if your product sells more it is probably working; if your
product goes down you have something wrong. A lot of the stuff
that government does you think, as you look at it, "What
am I supposed to do? What is that all about?" What I am asking
you is how tough are you on evaluating what you are getting out
of this spend?
Mr Tee: We are pretty tough and
getting tougher I would say. The Central Office of Information
recently released a report on what they call return on marketing
investment and I think it has some really interesting figures
in it. Some of our marketing actually pays government more than
the marketing costs. If you take, for example, Her Majesty's Revenue
and Customs' campaign around people filling in their tax returns
online, that increased the number of people who returned tax returns
at all and vastly increased the number who returned them online
and the payback on that was about £2.65 for every pound they
spend on the marketing. What we are getting to is a much closer
analysis in the way that a commercial company would do it of what
was the financial pay-back of this. That will not always be to
government so if you take smoking for example, because we have
been doing smoking cessation campaigns for a very long time we
really do now understand how many people who ask for the pack
will actually use it and give up, how many of those people who
give up will still have given up in six weeks' time, how many
of those will have given up in two years. Through that and by
knowing what a smoker costs the NHShealth economists have
done really good figures on thisI can tell you that on
the smoking cessation campaigns we get a return to the NHS rather
then the Department of Health of about £5 for every pound
spent on smoking cessation. What I want to see is that all of
government's communication workit is much easier in marketing
than it is in some other areasis able to give us those
sorts of return on investment figures.
Q79 Chairman: The Government itself
is getting interested these days in the whole behavioural psychology
approach to policy making because much of government turns on
the ability to change the way in which people behave. Presumably
those engaged in communications work would also be thinking their
way through all of that and it often requires a more sophisticated
approach to sending messages out than was the case before. Is
your side of the business actively engaged in all that?
Mr Tee: Absolutely. When I was
appointed Gus O'Donnell asked me to lead a piece of cross-Whitehall
work on how you could adopt behaviour change theory, that economists
and psychologists have been working on for some time, into government
policy and we are holding a major conference in late February
around the application of behaviour change techniques to government
Q80 Chairman: Are there examples
yet of where that is coming through?
Mr Tee: There are examples that
we have used so far which have tended to be marketing and communications
driven. Actually we can do behaviour change in government for
ever and ever. Mr Hopkins was recalling some of the public service
films; the seat belt campaign could be an example of it; the smoking
campaign goes back for ages. Where I would like us to be is that
people who are developing new policy or designing new public services
have an understanding of the tools at their disposal. We know
that government, pretty uniquely, can legislate and certainly
within smoking legislation has played a part in our work around
changing behaviour on smoking, but we also know that there are
some of the techniques that I suppose might popularly be called
"nudge" which are ways of influencing behaviour without
a big advertising campaign or knocking people over the head and
telling them they cannot do things. I want those to be a much
more integral part of government.
Q81 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Can I ask
you about you budget? As far as I can see from this, you have
had an increase in your budget of around 50% in the last financial
year. Is that right? How much do you spend a year as an organisation,
staff, costs and all the rest of it?
Mr Tee: Within the Cabinet Office
where I sit I oversee government communication which is cross
government and I oversee the Cabinet Office communication directorate.
Q82 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Do you have
a budget personally?
Mr Tee: Yes.
Q83 Mr Liddell-Grainger: What is
Mr Tee: My budget is about £8
million for this year.
Q84 Mr Liddell-Grainger: What is
your forecast for your budget next year? Do you know?
Mr Tee: I do not know. I am still
in budget planning.
Q85 Mr Liddell-Grainger: What is
your feeling? Should it go up or down?
Mr Tee: Down.
Q86 Mr Liddell-Grainger: What sort
Mr Tee: It is a conversation to
be had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office and with senior
colleagues in the Cabinet Office because the question is what
priority we attach to different pieces of work.
Q87 Mr Liddell-Grainger: That is
what I was actually coming on to. You have an £8 million
budget; you are meant to be policing not only government departments
you do the quangos as well, do you not?
Mr Tee: I do. I am the professional
head for those quangos which employ people on Civil Service contracts.
Q88 Mr Liddell-Grainger: How many
Mr Tee: Probably a bit over a
Q89 Mr Liddell-Grainger: So there
are a hundred quangos that you are meant to be looking at as well
and there are things like the Environment Agency et cetera.
Mr Tee: Yes.
Q90 Mr Liddell-Grainger: How many
people do those quangos employ? How many people are there in there
that you are meant to be responsible for?
Mr Tee: I do not know.
Q91 Mr Liddell-Grainger: You have
no idea at all.
Mr Tee: I do not have a figure
to hand. From the last census we did across the Government communication
network I think it was around 1300 but I would need to check.
Q92 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Do you not
think it might be a good idea to find out, given that these are
incredibly important things? Let us take the Environment Agency
for instance, it is a very good example. Tetbury goes under water;
obviously it must get the message outnobody disputes thatbut
actually do not know how many people they have in there, what
they are actually doing and whether or not what they are doing
is the right sort of thing.
Mr Tee: I would agree with parts
of that and not agree with other parts of it. The Environment
Agency has a chairman, chief executive and a board; they are responsible
for setting the budget support for the Environment Agency and
for their communication budget. They have no accountability to
me for the resource that they use on communication. I do not have
a remit to get in touch with the Environment Agency and say, "I
think you've got more communicators than you should have"
because they are a self-governing organisation. Where I think
I do have a role is in the effectiveness of Environment Agency
communications and so where I have an on-going dialogue is with
the directors of communications in the agencies where we have
a discussion about how we demonstrate effectiveness for that money.
I do have a conversation with the director of comms at the Environment
Agency about the effectiveness of their communications.
Q93 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Let us take
that a step further. You ask the Environment Agency how many PR
people they have throughout the United Kingdom. They come back
and give you the answer of 20 (I have no idea of the answer).
You say that actually that seems to be too little or too many
or whatever. Do you actually say to them, "Look, I think
that's too many"? If you said that to them could they legitimately
turn round and say, "I'm very sorry about this. It's nothing
to do with you, can you please bog off"?
Mr Tee: They are a self-governing
Q94 Mr Liddell-Grainger: They are
spending government money on PR.
Mr Tee: I understand that it is
one of the frustrations of the Committee, but actually the accountability
for the use of resources at the Environment Agency is to their
board and through their board to the minister at Defra. This piece
of benchmarking work that I am doing with the Treasury and the
National Audit Office will cover non-departmental public bodies
and agencies and within that I would be expecting to have comparable
information that covers those agencies. I think it would be entirely
legitimate for the Environment Select Committee, for example,
to be asking the chair of the Environment Agency or the minister
why the Environment Agency's spend on public relations or communications
was out of kilter with other comparable agencies.
Q95 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Could I
make a suggestion? You know roughly there are a hundred agencies;
could you compile that list as your job and perhaps come back
to the Public Administration Select Committeethat does
not oversee that particularly, it oversees the overall pictureand
say, "Look each one of these departments" (we have been
using the Environment Agency just as an example) "has got
X-amount, the RDAs have got X" and you could go through it.
Would that be a possible way forward?
Mr Tee: As part of the benchmarking
work which I have already started we will get to that position.
Q96 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Do you know
Mr Tee: I am hoping it will be
within the same six months.
Q97 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Can I just
ask one other question which is intriguing me? It is about the
use of famous people to front government advertisements. There
is one with Dame Helen Mirren and Madness front man Suggs. Do
you think that the use of these sorts of people is actually a
good use of government money because they tend to be a voice as
opposed to a face? Do you think it resonates to the public? Are
we actually getting something in return? How do you benchmark
Mr Tee: I think it is important
if we are going to use well-known people that we have a good and
clear rationale for doing that and that we have a way of judging
the effectiveness of what we did. Was it the Directgov
campaign you were referring to?
Q98 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Yes, it
Mr Tee: With the Directgov
campaign there was very good testing of that campaign with people.
By the people it was tested on Helen Mirren was felt to be an
appropriate person to be fronting that campaign. My counsel to
government communicators would be that we should be very circumspect
about the use of celebrity around government services.
Q99 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Can I just
take that a little bit further because the guy who directed that
was a guy called Steve Bendelack who also directedand I
mean no disrespect to any of theseRoyle Family, League
of Gentlemen, Little Britain and Mr Bean's Holiday.
Why use that sort of person, who is obviously pretty capable (actually,
I do not know about Mr Bean's Holiday), but he cannot have
Mr Tee: The question that I think
we have to answer is: did we get bang for our buck? If using somebody
like thatwho, clearly from the list that you have just
said, understands a particular segment of audience very well,
the sort of people who watch those sort of programmesgets
us a better advert than using somebody else and that advert is
more effective then I think we have a justification for it. The
thing that would trouble me is if we were unable through our evaluation
to say whether it was worth it or not.
Q100 Mr Liddell-Grainger: On ITVwhich
is our main commercial channel in this countryyou rarely
see very famous people on TV adverts because they cannot afford
to do it. Occasionally you get people who are not quite as famous
as Helen Mirren. They do not use those sorts of people because
they are expensive and difficult to get, yet the Government is
quite happy to use those sorts of people. I do not know how you
benchmark it? Can you tell us how you do it?
Mr Tee: What I think we look to
do is firstly to test any sort of marketing or advertising campaign
with the sort of people that we are hoping to raise awareness
with or to influence. Beyond that what we look to do is to test
firstly some of the immediate objectives of the campaign. We go
out, do some polling and we ask people whether they are aware
that that advertisement ran. We ask people whether they did anything
different as a result of that advertisement running. In the case
of something like Directgov we then look through to what
evidence we have that an action happened: do the number of visits
to particular parts of Directgov increase and those sorts
of things. That is how we measure the effectiveness of those sorts
Q101 Mr Liddell-Grainger: I am using
that one because it is down here, but were you happy with that,
you felt that that was a good return?
Mr Tee: It is a very recent campaign
so we have not finished evaluating it yet. I cannot say I am happy
with it because we do not have the evaluation report back yet.
A valuable role of COI is to ensure that they are happy that the
evaluation that is in the system before a campaign runs is proper
to evaluate it at the end of that campaign. I come back a little
bit on the question of ITV and the use of faces. We may have fewer
advertising campaigns on ITV fronted by famous people, but I think
there are still a lot. It is one of the reasons why I would say
that we should be very careful in government communications using
celebrities. There has been a trend in British advertising away
from it and there are very, very examples of using celebrities
in government campaigns; it is not something that we do routinely.
I think I would also say that when we do use famous people they
usually do some work for government at a fraction of the price
they would normally charge for commercial work.
Q102 Mr Walker: I have noticed from
your CV that you worked at the Department of Health.
Mr Tee: Yes.
Q103 Mr Walker: Were you responsible
for the "Defrost your turkey" advert?
Mr Tee: No.
Q104 Mr Walker: Do you remember that
advert? It was a man dressed up in a turkey suit telling people
to defrost their turkey properly otherwise you would end up in
hospital, and he would go round banging people on the head.
Mr Tee: I do not, I am afraid.
Q105 Mr Walker: Do you think that
was an effective use of taxpayers' money, advising people to defrost
Mr Tee: Without looking at the
original objectives of the campaign and how it evaluated I would
not want to say.
Q106 Mr Walker: I think the original
objectives were to get people to defrost their turkeys; something
to do with food poisoning and eat the leftovers the next day.
Mr Tee: It would be very difficult
for government to measure whether a turkey had been defrosted
but you could measure admissions to hospital with food poisoning.
Q107 Mr Walker: Or overeating. The
next question I want to ask youthis does worry me slightly
and I am not going to hold you responsible for thisover
the last few weeks there has been a lot of concern over mortality
rates in hospitals (it may have been over outcomes) and this organisation
called Dr Foster was all over our screens.
Mr Tee: I have to declare an interest;
I am a previous employee of Dr Foster.
Q108 Mr Walker: Yes, I know that,
however I thought this was an independent body and I have just
read here on your CV that this is a public/private partnership.
Is there government money behind Dr Foster?
Mr Tee: I am not absolutely aware
at this moment but it was. Dr Foster Intelligence was a 50/50
Q109 Mr Walker: Here we are with
people getting impartial advice on television from an organisation
called Dr Foster and I have just discovered now by accident that
this is information being laundered from the Government, from
the NHS. Dr Foster was commenting on the performance of the NHS
on national television, on BBC News, on Sky and not once was I
informed as a viewer that 50% of this organisation's money came
from the very organisation it was commenting on. Is this widespread
practice across government or is this just an isolated case? There
must be cause for concern if this were widespread.
Mr Tee: It is very much in the
public domain that Dr Foster is a
Q110 Mr Walker: No it is not in the
public domain. If I went out and interviewed the people and asked
them if they had heard of Dr Foster they would say "Who the
hell is he?" What is in the public domain is when some organisation
is on television called Dr Foster positioned as an impartial commentator
on a set of issues relating to the NHS. The public will never
have heard of this organisation before they see it on television
and it is not actually widely flagged up by people commenting
on behalf of Dr Foster that half their money comes from the NHS.
Surely that is a bit sharp practice?
Mr Tee: In a way it is a question
for the Department of Health and for Dr Foster.
Q111 Mr Walker: You are the Government
communicator supremo. This is laundering information in a fairly
Mr Tee: Dr Foster has the relationship
with the National Health Service Information Centre and through
them with the Department of Health. That is the way that relationship
works. Dr Foster is a company which is 50% owned and produces
an annual report on hospitals.
Q112 Mr Walker: What was the Government
need to own 50% of an organisation called Dr Foster? What was
the imperative for creating Dr Foster?
Mr Tee: I think that is a question
for the Department of Health.
Q113 Mr Walker: You were the Director
of Business Development. Why was Dr Foster created? What was your
remit at Dr Foster?
Mr Tee: Dr Foster existed before
it became a joint venture. Dr Foster existed as a company.
Q114 Mr Walker: Independent from
Mr Tee: As a private company and
I worked for it. What happened was that Dr Foster and the NHS
Information Centre got into a 50/50 deal on a joint venture which
was called Dr Foster Intelligence. I think you will find there
is an NAO Report on this and the Public Accounts Committee has
Q115 Mr Walker: If I ever see it
again on television I have to know what it does. What does Dr
Mr Tee: It is a company which
analyses and helps the NHS to understand NHS data.
Q116 Mr Walker: Why can the NHS not
do that? Why does it need to have Dr Foster doing it for it?
Mr Tee: What Dr Foster provides
on top of the data is analysis and interrogative tools to assist
Q117 Mr Walker: Do you think you
could do me a favour? Could you get in touch with the NHS and
actually convey that a member of this Committee has expressed
concern that when representatives of Dr Foster appear on our television
commenting on the performance of the NHS it is not made clear
in any way, shape or form that actually half their salary is paid
by the NHS and the taxpayer?
Mr Tee: I will happily convey
Q118 Mr Walker: Excellent. More generally,
I am sure you are a great champion of democracy; I know you are
a great champion of democracy. The Ministerial Code says that
major announcements should be made to Parliament first. So when
an announcement is going to be made do you find yourself having
to remind ministers they have to announce it to Parliament before
asking you to instruct your civil servants to go against the Code
by announcing it to the media beforehand?
Mr Tee: I think ministers are
well aware of the Ministerial Code. I have been involved in discussions
about how we can stay properly within the Ministerial Code. I
think it is very clear that announcements should be made to Parliament
first. I think it was reiterated in the Phillis Report as well.
Q119 Mr Walker: You are a public
servant; do you feel confident enough to remind ministers who
absentmindedly forget their obligations to announce it to Parliament
first? Would you say, "Hold on, Minister, you've just forgotten;
why don't you get in your car and nip off to Parliament and make
a statement quickly now"?
Mr Tee: I think if a department
was preparing an announcement about a piece of policy or the launch
of a command paper or that sort of thing, if neededI do
not think it happens very oftenthere would be a conversation
with the communications folk that said, "Minister, how do
we ensure that this is announced first to Parliament?"
Q120 Mr Walker: How senior are you?
You are a permanent secretary. I have been director of communications
for some companies, not enormous companies but turning over half
a billion and I always found that the director of communicationsthis
is more a reflection on me probablywas never regarded as
being quite top drawer because they did not have a profit and
loss. Do you see what I am saying, it is communications, it is
a bit below the salt. Do you think in government that that is
the case or do you feel that you have absolute access to the most
senior decision makers and that your views are given absolutely
full consideration when important matters are discussed?
Mr Tee: I have access to all the
decision makers that I would wish to have access to. I am absolutely
clear on that. What I would sayand I empathise with your
feeling about being a director of communication at timesis
that although I think communications has made considerable progress
from a point where it was seen as a sort of service industry,
we are still not at the point where communicators generally are
seen as peers around a policy making or delivery table. That is
my aspiration. That is why I am driving capability within the
Civil Service communications community because I want to be in
a position where a civil servant communicator at a given grade
is seen as being an absolute peer with a policy maker at the same
grade. What I would like to see, which we have not had yet, is
that communicators, in the same way that policy and finance people
do, come though the system and become permanent secretaries in
Q121 Mr Walker: Are you wining the
battle in certain departments that actually less is more? Volume
does not equate to quality and actually you could have less communication
but more quality communication that has a better chance of capturing
the attention of the audience that we are after?
Mr Tee: I think that is a point
very well made and I would say that one of the things I would
expect to see in the future is that we will undertake less big
advertising aimed at the entire population and more targeted communication
aimed at parts of the population. I think we should do it anyway
just because it is public money and I think public money is important;
it needs to be looked after and spent properly. The situation
we are going to get into with public finances is such that we
have absolutely no choice but to be thinking very much on those
Q122 Mr Walker: I am very interested
in the obesity campaign, having been very obese myself for a number
of years, and I think it is a huge problem which we need to do
something about. You mentioned you were still not convinced that
the advertising campaign was necessarily the right way forward
at the moment.
Mr Tee: If I gave that impression
I am misleading. I think the Department of Health has done a huge
amount of work on what the drivers of obesity are, what the key
life stages are where decisions are made or things happen that
lead to obesity and actually I think the work they are doing and
the different interventions they have are some of the best researched
and evaluated that we have in government. You cannot say that
Change for Life as a marketing campaign has worked until
in two to five years' time we are able to say that there are fewer
kids who are obese, but actually what we are doing at the moment
is based on very, very solid evidence.
Q123 Chairman: Could I just ask you
whether you thought the recent period of extreme bad weather was
a communications challenge because it seems to me that it was.
I wondered why the Government had not set up something like a
"freeze line". You are an NHS Direct sort of person,
are you not?
Mr Tee: I am indeed.
Q124 Chairman: There were people
without food and people without heating; was there not a case
for the Government just telling people things? They had to read
in the papers about the virtues of salt versus cat litter versus
this versus that. Are you fleet of foot enough at moments like
Mr Tee: I think we are. What we
did do across government was to ensure that the key departments
that had an interest in the cold weather and in communicating
messages were joined up together, that we were communicating as
a government, that we did not have ministers falling over each
other in order to get out their bit of the message, that ministers
who were doing interviews were able to speak about the transport
situation as well as about cold weather payments for example.
We tried to join all those communications up. What I would say
is that where government put most of its effortI think
this is absolutely rightwas in seeking to enable the services
that people needed to happen and not overlaying it with a telephone
line that did not help an awful lot. I think the wrong thing to
have done would have been to have had a freeze line that gave
you some bland recorded message that you had already seen on the
Q125 Chairman: I was not recommending
a recording, I was wanting someone there who would do a brokerage
and tell you where you should go and tell you where you could
get cat litter from.
Mr Tee: I think it is one of those
examples where what government did, absolutely appropriately,
was to look to local authorities.
Q126 Chairman: We have had a good,
varied discussion and it has been very interesting. Thank you
very much indeed for coming along and talking to us.
Mr Tee: Thank you, Chairman.
1 Operational Efficiency Programme Back