Public Administration Select Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 864

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Public Administration Committee

on Thursday 10 January 2013

Members present:

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Chair)

Alun Cairns

Charlie Elphicke

Paul Flynn

Robert Halfon

Keith Hopkins

Greg Mulholland

Priti Patel


Examination of Witness

Witness: Sir Jeremy Heywood KCB CVO, Cabinet Secretary, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: I welcome you to this session concerning the inquiries you made following the incident involving Andrew Mitchell in Downing street towards the end of last year. Could I ask you to identify yourself for the record, please?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I am Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary.

Q2 Chair: Thank you for being with us this morning. First, in your written evidence to us-your letter to me-you state that you have a role "to consider and provide advice to the Prime Minister including on matters relating to Ministerial conduct", and that you provided advice to the Prime Minister in this capacity about Andrew Mitchell soon after the incident took place on 19 September. Can you give an account of what investigation you conducted at that stage?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes, certainly. He asked me on the Tuesday morning after the incident on the Wednesday evening to examine whether the two e-mails that the Deputy Chief Whip had received from a constituent should change the Prime Minister’s own judgment as to whether Andrew should stay in post. So it was a very specific review of those two e-mails.

Q3 Chair: What investigation did you conduct?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: What I did was essentially three things. First, I went to talk to Andrew Mitchell, because I had not spoken to him since the incident, face to face. I thought it was very important to hear directly from him what he said happened. Secondly, I looked at the No. 10 and, indeed, Foreign Office CCTV footage to assess whether there were any inconsistencies between that footage and what was in the e-mails.

Thirdly, I sought to meet the person who had sent the e-mails. That was the most difficult aspect, because the person who sent the e-mails was not prepared to meet me or any member of my staff. He regarded the e-mails as private constituency correspondence between him and his constituency MP, and therefore he was not prepared to meet anybody other than John Randall. So I asked John Randall to go and meet him to try to establish if there was any further context, or any aspects over and above the e-mails themselves that were relevant to the review. Above all, we tried to establish whether this person was a bona fide constituent, his occupation and so on. He was specifically asked whether he had any links with the police or the media-clearly that was an issue in our minds-and he denied that. That was probably the least satisfactory bit of the inquiry, because I was not able to see him myself, but John Randall did see him and gave me that account. Those were the three elements that I put together into a short note for the Prime Minister.

Q4 Chair: So this was your first acquaintance with the incident? When did you first hear about it?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I was told in very general terms, I think, on the Wednesday night itself by the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. He said there had been an incident; he did not really give me any details. Obviously I became aware of it in more detail when The Sun printed their story. Frankly, I did not get fully involved in it until Yvette Cooper wrote to me, as Cabinet Secretary, on the Sunday and asked me to set out the full facts. That was the point at which I became more involved personally.

Q5 Chair: And you treated Yvette Cooper’s letter as an allegation of ministerial misconduct?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes; obviously, I have to take it very seriously when the Shadow Home Secretary writes to me and asks my view on things. I had to get involved at that point.

Q6 Robert Halfon: When did you start looking at the CCTV coverage?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think it was Tuesday 25 September.

Q7 Robert Halfon: Did you look at the same CCTV coverage that the "Dispatches" programme had reported?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think I did. I cannot swear it was exactly the same. It must have been basically the same. I think I saw a longer, unredacted version of it.

Q8 Robert Halfon: But was it the same as in the "Dispatches" programme?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Basically, yes.

Q9 Robert Halfon: And when you saw the CCTV in the "Dispatches" programme, or the same CCTV, was that subsequently reflected in the evidence that you gave to the Prime Minister?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes. My report to the Prime Minister basically said that there were some inconsistencies and inaccuracies between the account in the e-mails and what I could see in the CCTV footage.

Q10 Chair: I understand that the CCTV footage you saw was from two cameras, one on the Treasury building and one overlooking the gates.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: There were two No. 10 cameras, and there was one Foreign Office camera.

Q11 Chair: Right. There is also a camera opposite, on a lamp post outside the MOD. You didn’t see that coverage?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: That is a police CCTV camera.

Q12 Chair: So you have not been allowed to see that?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: We didn’t ask to see it, nor was it necessary to see it to reach the conclusion that we did.

Q13 Robert Halfon: How did you actually assess the CCTV footage, and what expertise did you deploy when you were looking at it?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I basically just looked at it. I deployed the common-sense expertise of looking at it and seeing whether it seemed consistent with the e-mails.

Q14 Robert Halfon: And you immediately saw, from having looked at the full CCTV footage that the "Dispatches" programme reported on, that there was something wrong?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I looked at it very carefully. I did not rush to a judgment; I looked at it several times, obviously, and looked at different cameras. We paced out the route as well. I would say it was inconclusive and unreliable. The key point for me, and the sole task that I was set by the Prime Minister, was to assess whether or not these e-mails should change his view about whether Andrew Mitchell should stay in post. Don’t forget that at the time there was huge media, parliamentary and political pressure to sack Andrew Mitchell, effectively, or for him to resign. These e-mails appeared to corroborate the police’s story. They appeared to be an independent corroboration of one side of the story, rather than another. Therefore, there was huge pressure to ask Andrew to resign. That was the context.

Q15 Robert Halfon: Given that you watched the full CCTV coverage, which was the same as on the "Dispatches" programme, why did it only subsequently emerge from "Dispatches" that there had been inconsistencies in the accounts?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I don’t know. Frankly, my report was a private report to the Prime Minister. It was not a public report. My report made it quite clear that there were some inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

Q16 Chair: Have you seen the YouTube footage in which an attempt has been made to overlay the reported dialogue on the CCTV footage? Neither the body language nor the time elapsed suggests that it is possible for those exchanges to have taken place.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I have not seen the YouTube footage, but I know different people have-

Q17 Chair: Did you draw the same conclusion?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think it is inconclusive. Some people argue that it is compatible with the police version; some people do not. That is why it is very important now that the police get on with a thorough investigation.

Q18 Chair: Have you done a lot of assessing CCTV footage, or is this your first time?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, this is my debut.

Q19 Robert Halfon: Was your analysis of the CCTV footage the same as the analysis of "Dispatches"? Did you come to the same conclusions?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not want to go into the full details, because what I said in my review is now part of the evidence that the police are collecting as part of the criminal investigation.

Q20 Charlie Elphicke: Sir Jeremy, you became aware on or about Tuesday 25 September that there was a discrepancy between the CCTV footage and what was reported. Did you feel a need to share that with the police, or did you share it with the police, who raised concerns as part of their own response in this matter?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: My report was to the Prime Minister, not to the police.

Q21 Charlie Elphicke: Would you have expected, in a reasonable world, that the police themselves might have viewed the MOD camera under their control and perhaps noticed discrepancies, and might have taken action earlier than they did to correct matters?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: To be honest, I do not really want to comment on the police inquiry. The police made it clear at the time that as far as they were concerned, the matter was closed, so I do not think they did any serious investigation at that time.

Q22 Charlie Elphicke: Does that surprise you?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It does not surprise me particularly; that was just the decision they took. They regarded it as an unfortunate episode in which Andrew Mitchell, in their view, had sworn at the police. Andrew obviously took a different view as to what happened, and they regarded the matter as closed and did not really want to take it any further.

Q23 Charlie Elphicke: It seems to me amazing that your investigation is more thorough than the police’s, from what one can tell now, looking at these events.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not really want to comment on that.

Q24 Alun Cairns: Sir Jeremy, you said in response to Mr Halfon that there were some inaccuracies and inconsistencies, but weren’t they pretty fundamental, rather than just "some"? The "Dispatches" programme clearly exposes significant differences between the accounts.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: What was fundamental was the conclusion, which was that you could not rely on these e-mails to terminate Andrew Mitchell’s career. Against a backdrop of enormous media, political and parliamentary pressure to sack Andrew, the Prime Minister, on the basis of my analysis of the e-mails, decided to stand up against that pressure and keep Andrew in post. It was a fairly fundamental binary choice: you either believe these e-mails or you don’t.

Q25 Alun Cairns: But that would have raised questions, surely, in your mind about the reports that had been attributed to officers or witnesses who were there. Therefore, do you not think that it would have been sensible to raise them with the police?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: My report was a report to the Prime Minister, and it was about some e-mails, not about the logbooks.

Q26 Alun Cairns: Yes, but bearing in mind that you had already mentioned the political furore that was surrounding this issue, and that it is a pretty serious offence if there has been any misreporting of the events by an officer, do you not think that that should have been brought to the police’s attention?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I certainly did not draw any conclusions about the initial reporting of the offence, or the alleged offence. That was not part of my inquiry.

Q27 Alun Cairns: No, but you have already said that there were some pretty fundamental inconsistencies.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: That was with the e-mails, not with the logbooks.

Q28 Alun Cairns: I am talking about the inconsistencies between what is in the e-mail and what is on the video.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I definitely did see some inconsistencies and inaccuracies between the two, and my job was to report that to the Prime Minister.

Q29 Alun Cairns: Do you now think that you should have reported them to the police?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I don’t. I think that my job was to report to the Prime Minister in line with what he had asked me to do, which was to-

Q30 Alun Cairns: But if you potentially have evidence in front of you that suggests that an officer may well have-

Chair: Order.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Let me be very clear about this. We did not know at the time that the e-mailer was a police officer. Had we known that, things would have been done differently, probably. This person was presenting himself as a constituent of the Deputy Chief Whip, sending a private e-mail to the Deputy Chief Whip saying what he had seen.

Q31 Alun Cairns: But I am referring to the reported police log in the press.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not investigate the police log.

Q32 Chair: In terms of what you reported to the Prime Minister-that it was inconclusive-who did you believe? Did you believe what purported to be the police log-the police account-or did you believe Mr Mitchell?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As I said in my letter to Yvette Cooper, I believe that there was a genuine difference of view.

Q33 Chair: So what did you do about this genuine difference of view, to resolve the question of which was true? It was obviously pretty material.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: The Prime Minister decided on the basis of the genuine difference of view to draw a line under the matter. That was his position, and I work for the Prime Minister.

Q34 Chair: So it was decided possibly to accept that Andrew Mitchell was lying.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. I do not think that the Prime Minister at any stage thought that Andrew Mitchell was lying, and nor did I.

Q35 Chair: But if he was telling the truth, then someone else was lying.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. I think that in life you sometimes have a genuine difference of recollection, a difference of view as to what was said.

Q36 Chair: And you did not feel that it was part of your investigation to get to the bottom of that.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. It would have been impossible for me to do that without investigating the police, which was not my job.

Q37 Chair: Right, it would have been impossible.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was not my job to investigate the police.

Q38 Robert Halfon: Did you ask to see the police log?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No.

Q39 Robert Halfon: Can you explain why you did not ask to see the police log?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Because I did not think it was appropriate for me to be investigating the police log. I did not think it was necessary for me-

Q40 Chair: It was not a question of investigating the police log; it was a question of seeing whether Mr Mitchell was telling the truth or not. Would you not have wanted to see the police log, to compare it to-

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Let me be very clear about this; it is very important not to get confusion here. My review, set by the Prime Minister, was into the e-mails, not into the police log. I did not think that I needed to see the police logs in order to draw the conclusion that I did about the e-mails, which was that they were not reliable and therefore that Andrew Mitchell should be kept in position.

Q41 Chair: So your remit was very limited.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was very limited, yes.

Q42 Robert Halfon: But given the differences between what you say you saw on the CCTV, subsequently reported by the "Dispatches" programme, and the inconsistencies that you say you saw with the e-mails compared with the CCTV, did you not then think, "We should investigate the police log because that will help to corroborate what has been going on"?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I reported my findings to the Prime Minister and it was then up to him to decide how to take it forward. He took the view that we should draw a line under this episode and let Andrew Mitchell carry on as Chief Whip, despite the overwhelming pressure to remove him from post.

Q43 Alun Cairns: Can I pursue the issue about the police log? When we are talking about investigating the police log, let us be clear that we did not need to investigate the actual police log because there was a report in The Daily Telegraph on 24 September that claimed to report the police log. There was an article in the public domain that easily could have been compared with the claims that were being made elsewhere, and with what was on the CCTV footage.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, I do not know whether The Daily Telegraph’s report of the police log is actually accurate. My main point, to be honest, is that I did not need to have a forensic investigation of the police log to assess whether these e-mails were reliable, which is what I had been asked to do by the Prime Minister. What I was asked to do was assess whether these e-mails changed the picture. The logs, of course, were in The Daily Telegraph the day before I started my little review, but in the end, they were not material to my conclusion, which was that the e-mails were unreliable. That was what I was asked to report on by the Prime Minister, and that is what I did as quickly as I could.

Q44 Charlie Elphicke: You just said that you did not know whether the police log in The Daily Telegraph was accurate. If it was not accurate, would you not have expected the commissioner of the police to have immediately denied it strongly and said, "This is a false and inaccurate log"?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I am saying that I did not know one way or the other, and I understand that Bernard Hogan-Howe, in his appearance before the Home Affairs Committee, made the very same point. I make no further comment on that.

Q45 Chair: Just to summarise: you felt you had a very narrow remit; you did not feel it was your business to go beyond that remit; and you did not feel it was within your remit to get to the bottom of the inconsistencies with which you were being presented.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. My remit was to report back to the Prime Minister on my findings, which were that the e-mails were not reliable, which is what he had asked me to investigate, and then await further instructions, if any.

Q46 Chair: The fact that there were two accounts in the public domain that were contested, which had a very serious impact on the reputation of a Minister and led eventually to his resignation, was not part of your remit.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think we concluded that Andrew Mitchell should stay in post, which was rather, as I am trying to imply, a serious conclusion, given-

Q47 Chair: Unfortunately, you did not succeed in keeping him.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, that happened three weeks later.

Q48 Robert Halfon: Were you specifically told in your review to look only at the e-mails and CCTV footage? You were not told to look at the police log, but were told, "Please look only at the e-mails and the CCTV"?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was not specific. I did not have specific written terms of reference, but the request the Prime Minister made of me was to establish whether these e-mails should change his view about Andrew’s position as a Minister, because obviously he needs to be compliant with the ministerial code and so on.

Q49 Robert Halfon: Would not a good way of checking whether the e-mails were true or not be to compare them with the police log?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think the more effective way of checking them was to check them against the CCTV footage, which is what I did.

Q50 Priti Patel: You have made it quite clear already that your remit was narrow, and you have said in your written evidence and your correspondence with the Chair of the Select Committee that you were not there to investigate the veracity of the police log. That said, you have highlighted that there was a furore going on, and there was a big public profile and significant public attention given to this subject, which was being reported day in, day out. You were picking up inconsistencies while you were investigating this, within the narrow remit that you had. Did it not occur to you, or did you not think at any stage while you were carrying out the investigation, that surely the remit might need to become slightly broader and wider, to look at further evidence and perhaps ask some probing questions, or that you might perhaps even go to the Prime Minister before reporting to him to say, "Look, this is not quite squaring up. There are wider issues here, and perhaps we need to widen the scope of this investigation to have a thorough in-depth analysis into what has gone on"?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: The short answer is no. It does not really work like that. If the Prime Minister wanted me to broaden the remit, or if, having seen the first report, he wanted a next stage, or if Andrew Mitchell had wanted that, obviously that is what I would have done, but I can only do what I am asked to do. As for what I cannot do-this is really quite important-it is not the role of a civil servant or the Cabinet Secretary to start investigating the police. There are different mechanisms in place for people who have a complaint against the police or want to investigate police misconduct. That is not my job. I do not have the powers. I do not have the expertise. It would not be right for the Cabinet Secretary to be involved in that sort of-

Chair: But isn’t that the problem? We will come to that later. Mr Mulholland.

Q51 Greg Mulholland: Sir Jeremy, were you the right person to carry out this investigation?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, I think the investigation into whether these e-mails were reliable or not was perfectly within my remit and competence, frankly. It is part of my role. I have several roles, obviously, but part of my role is to advise the Prime Minister, when he asks, on ministerial conduct. If these e-mails had turned out to be reliable, that would have had a significant impact on the Prime Minister’s confidence in Andrew Mitchell. It is a perfectly legitimate part of my role, and I think, frankly, that I did the job perfectly competently and reached the right conclusion.

Q52 Greg Mulholland: Was this referred to the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests at any point?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. It was not.

Q53 Greg Mulholland: Why not?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Because I don’t think we felt it was necessary to do so.

Q54 Greg Mulholland: Even though there were allegations and, as you say, a huge political furore about the conduct of a senior Minister?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As I say, I think the specific issue that the Prime Minister asked me to look at I was perfectly competent to look at, did look at, reached a conclusion fairly speedily, and the Prime Minister acted on that basis. I do not think, with the greatest respect to my former colleague Alex Allan, he would have come to any different conclusion, or done it any better.

Q55 Greg Mulholland: That we will never know, but it is interesting that in your written evidence you have said, "It is my role as Cabinet Secretary to consider and provide advice to the Prime Minister including on matters relating to Ministerial conduct." Yet clearly the second of the two-part role of the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests is to investigate allegations that individual Ministers may breach the ministerial code of conduct. So whose role is it, and why are we duplicating a position? What is the point having an adviser on ministerial interests if you are not referring matters to him?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Frankly, the Prime Minister judges these cases case by case. So in some cases-

Q56 Chair: He takes your advice.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: He sometimes takes my advice and sometimes does not. He is the Prime Minister.

Q57 Chair: You could have advised him to refer it.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I could have done. I could have advised him to do that, but I did not think it was necessary, because I thought it would be a short and sharp review of the e-mails that I could do perfectly well myself. A different case-the Baroness Warsi case, last year-that felt to me like a more drawn-out process with a bit more fact finding and so on, and I thought that was an appropriate case to advise that Alex get involved, and the Prime Minister took that advice on that occasion, so you have to judge these things, I think, issue by issue.

Q58 Greg Mulholland: Do you wish you had referred the matter to Sir Alex Allan now?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I don’t, actually. I don’t think it would have made any difference.

Q59 Greg Mulholland: Another issue of concern is that as you have said you carry out several roles. You have got a hugely busy job, which has a very wide remit. Were you really able to put the necessary time in, considering your other responsibility of supporting the Prime Minister in the Cabinet?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes, I did not think resources were the problem in this particular case. The only real problem we had in conducting the short review of the e-mails was the fact that I was not able to meet the e-mailer personally. We had to do that through the Deputy Chief Whip. That was the only sort of glitch, if you like, in the process. I don’t think that would have been addressed by Alex Allan taking it up, because if the guy wasn’t prepared to talk to anybody he wouldn’t have been prepared to talk to Alex Allan either, I don’t think.

Q60 Greg Mulholland: You possibly could have conducted an investigation with a wider remit, which seems to be one of the concerns.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As you know, under the current scheme the Prime Minister sets the remit. I know that this Committee would like the investigator to have more spontaneous powers-the right to initiate his or her own investigations. That is a different model, which is not the current model. Under this model, if Alex Allan had been brought in he would have been acting to a remit which would have been precisely the same as the one that I have.

Q61 Paul Flynn: You will recall the history of the adviser. The previous holder of the office resigned and told this Committee that he thought he should have investigated the affair involving Werritty and Liam Fox, which, again, was done over a weekend by someone who is expressly described by the ministerial code as someone who should not carry out an investigation. The new appointment received the universal disapproval of this Committee, which thought that the job called for a Rottweiler and not a poodle. Since that time there has only been one case investigated, although there have been a number of egregious examples that should have been investigated. The only case investigated is the one you mentioned-Baroness Warsi, who confessed beforehand-of a venial sin, whereas the serious offences have not been investigated. Would you agree that the role of the adviser has been degraded, for political purposes, by the Prime Minister?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I certainly would not agree with that, no. As you well know, the adviser has two different roles. One is to help case by case with investigations. The second, probably more substantively, is to help advise Ministers on their interests and the publication of those interests, and avoid conflicts of interest. Alex Allan has played a very active and vigorous role in that, as well as undertaking the Warsi investigation.

Thinking back over the last period, the only other case I can think of where the issue arose was in relation to Jeremy Hunt. That case there was very different and I think the judgment there was certainly not one for the Cabinet Secretary to take on. But the fact was that we had a judge sitting in an inquiry who had full powers to get the truth out of people-

Chair: You don’t need to go over that again.

Q62 Paul Flynn: There was another case, involving a lunch that the Communities Minister had that was a clear breach of the rules. It was purported but not investigated, but in the previous Government cases of alleged misbehaviour were investigated. There were serious cases-I will not mention the names-but they were looked at. Under this Government, not one serious case has been investigated. Does this not mean that we should take out of the Prime Minister’s hands the right to decide which cases should be looked at and put it in the hands of an adviser, if we had an adviser who did not have a record of saying, "Yes, Sir; No, Sir; three bags full, Sir" to politicians throughout his previous career?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I certainly do not accept the idea that Alex Allan is that sort of person. He is a perfectly independent individual-

Q63 Paul Flynn: That was the view of this Committee, unanimously.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I know, and I personally do not agree with that. As for your more general point, clearly the Government are still reflecting on the recommendations of the House of Commons debate and the views of this Committee, but, fundamentally, I think that you have a different model in mind here. The model that currently exists is one in which the Prime Minister is responsible for deciding who is in his Government and for policing the ministerial code. I think that what you would like to do is to make the investigation of Ministers’ conduct more at arm’s length from the Prime Minister.

Q64 Chair: It might have helped in this situation. We do not know, but it might have done. It might have helped you not get into this situation.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, I do my duty.

Q65 Priti Patel: I come back to the investigation-can I ask for your thoughts and reflections? You have undertaken the investigation and we are where we are with the current situation. In hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently while investigating the whole saga at the time, in light of what we now know?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: In the light of what we now know, if we had known at the time that the person who sent the e-mails was a serving police officer, I think that we would probably have pushed this material to the police at an earlier stage. But, clearly we did not know that at the time. John Randall asked the person whether he had any links with the police or the media and he said absolutely not. And there was no reason, frankly, to doubt the bona fides of someone who was purporting to be a constituent sending a private e-mail to his constituency MP, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Q66 Chair: So you believed the e-mail?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I thought the e-mail was unreliable, as I said.

Q67 Chair: But you said there was no reason to doubt his bona fides?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As to what his occupation was and his links and so on.

Q68 Priti Patel: Can I come in on that particular point? Dare I say this: there will possibly be future investigations into others at some stage, because that is just the nature of the political world. Are there any particular lessons that you think can be learnt from the way that this investigation was undertaken?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think that, when the police complete their investigation and we get to the full facts, we will probably want to take stock at that point and think about whether anything could have been done differently. But we are still in the middle of a live police investigation which would lead to criminal proceedings.

Clearly, there are a number of very serious unanswered questions here, not least of which is the allegations that have been made about the leaking of No. 10 police logs to the media and continuing allegations that the logs were falsified in some way. Those are absolutely not proven, but there are some very serious allegations and, fundamentally, it is very important that the people guarding Downing street are people of integrity.

Obviously, if it is proven in a court of law-if it gets to that-that somebody has tried to falsify evidence to try to bring down a Cabinet Minister, that is a fundamental issue. It would be wrong to rush to judgment now as to what could have been done differently, but certainly at some point in the future we will want to look at that.

Q69 Alun Cairns: I want to take you back to the remit. You said that your remit was to investigate the e-mails and their reliability. Surely, shouldn’t the remit and objective have been to get to the truth?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, it was to get to the truth about those e-mails, yes.

Q70 Alun Cairns: No, the truth about the case rather than just selective elements of the issue.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It would not have been realistic to expect me to arbitrate between the police officers in Downing Street and Andrew Mitchell. I do not have the powers, I certainly do not have the time and, frankly, both sides had decided to draw a line under that genuine difference of view.

Q71 Chair: That suggests you are the wrong figure. It is nothing to do with you personally or your personal qualities, but you are just the wrong figure to conduct such an investigation.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was not the investigation I was asked to-

Q72 Chair: I appreciate that, but is the Cabinet Secretary the most appropriate person to be conducting such an investigation in the midst of intense media furore, where there are contested accounts of an incident upon which the career of a senior Minister turned? You are simply not equipped to carry out the right investigation. You did not get to the truth about that e-mail.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, I got to the truth about the e-mail in the sense that I concluded it was not reliable and therefore the Prime Minister should not use it to sack Andrew Mitchell. That was the correct conclusion to reach on that e-mail. I obviously did not get to the truth about who this character was, because he would not see me. He would not be able to see anybody.

It really depends on the nature of the investigation. If you are saying there should have been an investigation on day one into whether the police were telling the truth in the logs, or Andrew Mitchell, then that clearly would not have been a matter for me, or indeed for Alex Allan. It would have been a matter for the IPPC, because it is basically suggesting that the police log was fabricated in some way. That is a serious allegation about the conduct of the police. That is obviously not something that I as a civil servant or Alex Allan as the independent investigator should get involved in.

Q73 Chair: So you just dropped it.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not drop it. Both sides concluded that, though serious and unfortunate, and apologies were given and so on, a line should be drawn under the incident and we should move on. That was the decision taken at that time.

Q74 Alun Cairns: May I pursue this a little further? You have said, Sir Jeremy, that it was not your role to investigate the police, but if you came across any evidence in this or any other case whereby there is questionable evidence of statements that have been made, do you not think that that should be reported to the police, or even to the IPCC?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: My remit was to provide conclusions for the Prime Minister, and that is what I did.

Q75 Alun Cairns: Yes, but if you have seen a potential error or a blatant inconsistency, do you not believe that that should be brought to the police’s or the IPCC’s attention?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I cannot really add to what I have just said. I was asked by the Prime Minister to review these e-mails. I did so in good faith. I passed my conclusions to the Prime Minister and then he decided what to do.

Q76 Alun Cairns: I would like to go further. So if you see a potential criminal offence in front of you, on the face of it, do you not think that that deserves investigation?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: To be honest, I really do not want to get sucked into these e-mails. I cannot do that. They are evidence in a criminal investigation. All I will say is that day to day I get any number of e-mails sent to me by people-members of the public-claiming various things about various Ministers. In the end, you have to make a judgment. I put forward my conclusions on a question that the Prime Minister asked me to look at: were these e-mails a reliable basis on which to ask Andrew Mitchell to resign? I concluded that they were not reliable. That is all I did.

Q77 Alun Cairns: But this is slightly different. Having viewed the CCTV, you would have seen for yourself the inconsistency, rather than just having received any letter about any allegation about any other politician.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: That does not mean to say that this guy was committing a criminal offence. He could have been-this is where I get into the dangerous terrain of speculating on his motives and his activities.

Q78 Chair: But why not send all those e-mails to Alex Allan to deal with? That is what he is there for.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I do not think it is. I have a job and my team have a job to filter out the noise and to advise the Prime Minister on which of these are serious allegations and where there is some evidence that is worth investigating and which are not. But I cannot get sucked into a long discussion here about the evidence, which is currently part of a criminal investigation. I am sorry, Mr Chairman.

Q79 Chair: So you lost a Minister because of false allegations made about him that were not properly investigated.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, the conclusion of my review was that we should not lose a Minister, and we did not lose a Minister as a result of these e-mails and my report. Andrew Mitchell stayed in post. It was only three or four weeks later that he finally resigned.

Q80 Alun Cairns: I have one more question. I want to go back to the day before, which was the letter on 24 September from Yvette Cooper.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: 23rd.

Alun Cairns: I have the 24th in my records.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: My letter to her, you mean?

Q81 Alun Cairns: Yes. The letter that you received from Yvette Cooper and the response that you gave Yvette Cooper. What sort of investigation did you conduct before you responded to her?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not conduct an investigation at that point. At that point, I was just reporting the settled position that the Prime Minister had reached, which was that a line should be drawn under the incident.

Q82 Alun Cairns: You said earlier that a letter coming from a senior Opposition politician deserves investigation, but you did not investigate.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: If I said that, let me correct myself. What I meant was that if I get a letter from a senior Opposition politician, I have to respond to it seriously. It does not necessarily call for a full investigation. At that particular point, there was no evidence on which to start an investigation.

Q83 Alun Cairns: On the 24th, in your letter to the Chairman of the Committee, you say that during the course of that day you became aware of e-mails. So, had you responded to Yvette Cooper before or after you were aware of the questions surrounding those e-mails?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I used that form of words because I simply cannot remember. Frankly, I think the situation with the e-mails was that, when the first e-mail came in, I was not aware of it until a few days later. However, when the first e-mail came in, the most important thing was to establish whether it was a bona fide constituent of Mr Randall. Some time and care was taken to try to establish the address and phone number of this person. Frankly, it was only when a second e-mail came in and a phone call had taken place between John Randall and this person that we thought it was potentially quite serious and had better investigate it.

Q84 Alun Cairns: So, in your response to Yvette Cooper you were not necessarily aware of those issues before you said to her that a line should be drawn under everything.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Personally, I can’t remember having seen the emails until after I sent off the letter to Yvette Cooper. It is conceivable that they might have been in my inbox, so I do not want to mislead you.

Q85 Robert Halfon: When you saw the CCTV and the inconsistencies of the e-mails, just to confirm, you did not then report back to the police that you thought there were inconsistencies in the e-mails. Is that right?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: That is correct.

Q86 Robert Halfon: So is it fair to say that, had it not been for the "Dispatches" television programme and this going into the public domain, there would probably not have been any police investigation into the whole case?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not know, to be honest. When Andrew resigned, he took some time out, and then he came back in November and clearly decided that he wanted to take the issue further. He obviously wanted to look at the CCTV footage himself, and we made that available to him. He then put in a request to take it away. Towards the end of November, I said I thought it was sensible to tell the Metropolitan police that Andrew was taking this further, and that they ought to be aware of these e-mails and the CCTV footage that we had.

Q87 Robert Halfon: When you made a recommendation to the Prime Minister, did you not think, "There are clearly inconsistencies here. This is something that the police need to look at"? You would then advise the Prime Minister that that would be the course of action that needs to be followed.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I flagged up to him the unanswered questions, and we had a discussion. The conclusion was to let the matter lie.

Q88 Charlie Elphicke: One thing I am interested in is a summary of where we have got to so far. It seems to me that on 25 September you conducted what you have described as a little review. You did not have time to do a full investigation. Nevertheless, you say that you could see serious questions about the conduct of the police arising from that, and that the CCTV footage did not map with the reports of what was said in the media or the police log-or possible police log. Is that a fair summary of where we are at the moment?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I do not think I said I did not have time to do a proper review. I did have time to do a proper review. I was very comfortable with the time and resources I had for my review, and I was very confident in my conclusion.

Q89 Charlie Elphicke: Given that you were confident in your conclusion, and that you advised the Prime Minister of this, can you explain why no one seems to have thought to have shared the CCTV footage and the existence of it with Andrew Mitchell?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was shared subsequently. He did not ask to see it.

Q90 Chair: He asked to see it on the day he resigned.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes.

Q91 Chair: It wasn’t given to him.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was given to him shortly afterwards.

Q92 Charlie Elphicke: The footage shows that there is what we are euphemistically calling a massive discrepancy. Given that, and given that he would have had three weeks effectively to defend himself before he eventually resigned, do you not think it would have been fairer to have alerted him earlier, so he could actually see this and make his own case and defend himself?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: You will have to talk to Andrew about that, but I am pretty sure that he was told the broad conclusions and content of my report by No. 10. He did not at that point ask to see the CCTV footage. If he had asked to see it, we would of course let him see it. He was entitled to see it.

Q93 Chair: I understand that he was not allowed to see it until November, after he had resigned.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I cannot remember the precise date. It was absolutely clear that he could see it. We had to pixelate it, because he is only entitled to see himself, as it were. There was a subsequent debate about whether he could take it away. That raised some legal questions, and we had to work through it. Of course, he is entitled to see the CCTV footage.

Q94 Chair: If he had not been allowed to take it away, there would not have been a "Dispatches" programme, and we would not know all that we know now.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: But he was allowed to take it away.

Chair: Yes, he was allowed to take it away, and I congratulate you on that. Thank you. But maybe he should have been allowed it sooner.

Q95 Charlie Elphicke: On the letter you wrote to Yvette Cooper on 24 September, I think I am right in saying that you wrote this letter before you became aware of the e-mails. You write in the letter: "As soon as we became aware of the incident the No. 10 Head of Security and the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary spoke to the Police Sergeant to hear what had happened."

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes.

Q96 Charlie Elphicke: In your own advice to the Prime Minister, did you have a minute or any kind of note from the Principal Private Secretary about this matter and about that conversation?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. I do not think it was relevant to the reliability of the e-mails, and, as I keep on saying, that is what I was focused on.

Q97 Chair: Presumably, that account should have had some bearing on the accuracy of the e-mail.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was not necessary for me to look at that to assess that these were unreliable e-mails.

Q98 Charlie Elphicke: Were you aware that the Principal Private Secretary had spoken to the police sergeant?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes, I was.

Q99 Charlie Elphicke: And when you looked at the CCTV footage and you could see it did not map across, did you then think, "Maybe I ought to delve in a bit more and ask the Principal Private Secretary about this conversation and about whether there was accurate reporting going on here?"

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I think the Principal Private Secretary was simply getting early notice of what was going to be in the police log books. I do not think there was anything new in that. Of course, I have seen the notes subsequently, but at the time of analysing the e-mails it was not necessary to go into all the ins and outs of who in No. 10 had had the initial contact with the police. The issue was whether the e-mails stood squarely with the CCTV footage.

Q100 Charlie Elphicke: Given that you have said that there are serious questions on the conduct of the police-one cannot really go much further than that-is it fair to say that most of these early discussions that the head of security and the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary had with the police are recorded in some form of written notes, and will be handed to the police for the investigation into the events and what happened to see whether there are matters that should be brought to the CPS at some future stage?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Absolutely, yes.

Q101 Charlie Elphicke: Turning again to the letter, you state to Yvette Cooper, "There clearly remains a genuine difference of view about what words were actually used." You state in written evidence that your role was not to "investigate the veracity of the police logs", as we have discussed. Does it then follow that you are content to leave uninvestigated the fact that there was a discrepancy between the police log and Andrew Mitchell’s account, or did you think that maybe you ought to delve in more?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, I was guided by what the Prime Minister asked me to do, which was to look into the e-mails. He had concluded himself that there was a genuine difference of view between Andrew Mitchell and the police who were protecting his house, and he had concluded that, notwithstanding that unresolved question, it was important to draw a line under the issue, so that Andrew could get on with being the Chief Whip and the police could get on with guarding No. 10. The police were equally happy to draw a line under it.

Everybody accepted that there was an unresolved issue about what words were used, and the whole point about the CCTV footage was that there was no sound, so it cannot arbitrate on what was, if we all remember, the key issue at the time. The only question people were raising was whether the word "pleb" was used or not. No other questions were being raised by any independent person, having seen The Daily Telegraph version of the log, other than this question about "pleb". That is the one thing that the CCTV could not resolve. That was an unresolved question, and to this day it remains unresolved, although let us see where the police investigation gets.

Q102 Chair: Of course, when the Prime Minister first saw the e-mail, he telephoned Mr Mitchell and told him he had to resign. It was only at that point that Mr Mitchell said again, "But I did not say those things." Even then, there was an attempt just to draw a line under these discrepancies, when clearly a Cabinet Minister was being accused of lying or being in denial about what he actually said, and the report of the police log in The Daily Telegraph seemed to concur with what was in the e-mail.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: The important point that came out of the Andrew Mitchell phone call with the Prime Minister that morning was that I should do this investigation into the e-mails. That was the effect of that phone call.

Q103 Chair: When you attempted to contact Mr Randall’s constituent and he refused to talk to you, what was your reaction to that?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, one of frustration and mild suspicion, frankly.

Q104 Chair: So you became suspicious at that point?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I was mildly suspicious that he refused to see me but, frankly, he was prepared to see John Randall. John Randall spoke to him, and he got as much information as I probably would have done out of him.

Q105 Chair: Why did you feel it necessary to ask whether he had any connections with the police?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Because the question was: if he wasn’t there, how did he get the information?

Q106 Chair: But that was clear from the e-mail.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Yes. How did he get the information in an e-mail if he wasn’t actually present? These are the questions that the police will have to look at as part of their investigation. I cannot go any further than that.

Q107 Chair: I appreciate that. What attempts did you make personally to speak to the individual concerned?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not really have much to go on other than asking John Randall to give me his details, phone number and address. John sought to expedite that, but the guy would not meet either me or my team. I did not go and hammer on this door, but I tried my best to get hold of him via John Randall.

Q108 Chair: Did you draw any conclusion from the fact that he would not talk to you?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As I say, I found that to be mildly suspicious. I do not think it was a determinative factor, but clearly, he would have had more credibility in my eyes if he had been prepared to look me in the eye.

Q109 Chair: So at this stage, you were suspicious that the e-mail was not accurate.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not start off from these suspicions.

Q110 Chair: No, but when the guy would not talk to you, you became suspicious that the e-mail might not be accurate.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: To be fair, the story he gave was that this was never intended for wider dissemination. It was a private e-mail.

Q111 Chair: Yes, but what did you think about its veracity?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: When I had gone through the analysis of the CCTV footage, I thought it was unreliable and contained some inconsistencies.

Q112 Chair: And the newspaper report of the so-called police log seemed to corroborate the e-mail.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not analyse the police logs or the newspaper report of the police logs.

Q113 Chair: We keep coming to this point that your remit was very narrow and you only did what the Prime Minister asked you to do. Don’t you think that is a fundamental problem with this investigation-that you were not asked to get to the bottom of it, that you did not feel it was your obligation to get to the bottom of it, and that, by failing to get to the bottom of it, the Government lost their Chief Whip?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not accept any of those points. The fact of the matter is that my job as Cabinet Secretary in this regard was to carry out those reviews that the Prime Minister asked me to do, and that is what I did in good faith. I think I came to the conclusion that the e-mails were not reliable, and therefore that Andrew Mitchell should stay in post, as the Prime Minister wished. That was an unpopular decision by the Prime Minister at that point in the eyes of the media, Parliament and many politicians. That was a tough decision he took-to stand by Andrew-and that was a decision that he took on the basis of my advice.

Q114 Chair: Did you advise the Prime Minister to take any steps to try to protect the reputation of Mr Mitchell, in the light of your suspicions about the e-mail?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No-other than keeping him in post, obviously. The most important way you can signal strong support for the reputation of a Minister is for the Prime Minister to keep them in a very senior position, such as Chief Whip.

Q115 Chair: But no one seemed to be contesting what was in the e-mail and what was in the public domain about the word "pleb". The only person contesting that was Mr Mitchell. It is quite reasonable for the public to conclude-well, the same as you concluded, really-that it was very difficult to tell who was telling the truth.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: To be honest, I did not look at the question of whether the word "pleb" was used. There was a genuine difference of view about that, and the CCTV footage does not bear on that one way or the other.

Q116 Charlie Elphicke: A few moments ago I asked you whether you had had a note from, or any discussion with, the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister about the conversation he had with the police sergeant. From your recollection of what the police sergeant said about what happened, did that recounting of what happened also not tally with the CCTV footage?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I did not compare it with the CCTV footage, but it obviously did tally with the police account in the logs, as it was coming from the police.

Q117 Charlie Elphicke: From the, if you like, semi-official account that you received through channels about what the police sergeant said, would you think there was what we are calling a discrepancy between CCTV footage and what the police sergeant was saying happened?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As I have said several times now, I did not analyse the CCTV footage against the police account in the logs, or the informal comments they made to the Principal Private Secretary. That was not part of my remit. My remit was to focus on these e-mails.

Q118 Charlie Elphicke: Why did you not go wider to look at what actually happened in the accounts?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Because the Cabinet Secretary can only conduct an investigation that the Prime Minister has asked him to. For me to decide for myself what my remit would be would get us into a different and more dangerous game. In this particular case, the Prime Minister asked me to look at the reliability of these e-mails, and that is what I did.

Q119 Chair: That would seem to be the shortcoming of this whole procedure-that you felt confined by your remit, and delivered your remit, but did not actually resolve anything.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: You say that, Mr Chairman, but we did resolve to keep Andrew Mitchell in his job.

Q120 Chair: It did not succeed.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: The Prime Minister’s decision was-at the time, it was heavily contested-to keep Andrew Mitchell in post.

Q121 Chair: Do you not think, as Cabinet Secretary, that you are entitled to offer advice to the Prime Minister about what he might do, rather than what he has just asked you to do, and to say, "Prime Minister, don’t you think you ought to get to the bottom of this? Why don’t we ask Sir Alex Allan to get involved with this to find out what is really going on?"?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, as I say, with the greatest respect to Alex Allan, I do not think that he would have been able to get any further with this.

Q122 Chair: He has a certain track record. He has probably looked at more CCTV footage than you have.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: That is possible, but I do not think that that was the issue. I had already concluded that the CCTV was not consistent with the e-mails. That was not the point.

Q123 Chair: One thing that was absolute fact was the CCTV footage. The one incontestable fact was the CCTV footage.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It was a judgment call, rather than a fact. Look, the only next stage would have been to start investigating the police’s behaviour or the police’s account of events, and that would not have been a matter for either me or Sir Alex Allan; that would require a different process altogether.

Q124 Chair: So at no stage did you feel that a more independent or wider investigation might have helped the situation. You just felt that it was all too intractable-that "We should try to draw a line, but if we lose the Chief Whip, tant pis."

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not think that you are being fair, Mr Chairman. We concluded, very clearly, that the e-mails were unreliable and therefore that Andrew Mitchell should stay in post.

Q125 Chair: I congratulate you on reaching that conclusion, but it did not resolve the problem.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It did not resolve the problem-

Q126 Chair: It was a smoking gun, wasn’t it?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not think that that was the issue. The issue was then how the body politic, the media, Parliament and the House of Commons decided to keep the issue running on. I do not think that Andrew Mitchell resigned in the end because of these e-mails.

Q127 Chair: Do you think that there are any broader lessons that we should learn from this incident about how the machinery of Government investigates ministerial misconduct and allegations of ministerial misconduct? Do you think that there is anything to learn from this at all?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: As I said earlier, I certainly want to reflect on that very question when we have seen the full facts, when the police investigation and court hearings have been completed, and when we see the full extent of what has gone on here. I do not want to rush to judgment until I have done that. These are very serious allegations. As the Prime Minister has made clear, and as I have made clear on his behalf to Bernard Hogan-Howe, these are very serious allegations about the conduct of the police officers guarding-

Q128 Chair: We are not actually concerned with the allegations about the police; we are concerned about the quality of the investigation.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Well, you have spent most of the morning on the review of the e-mails, which was deliberately a very tightly drawn review, and I believe that that review got to the right conclusion. I do not think that there are any lessons to learn about that, if that is the question. There will be some wider lessons from this whole thing when we know the full facts.

Q129 Chair: Will those lessons be about how ministerial conduct and allegations of ministerial conduct are investigated? Do you think that we have some lessons to learn about that?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: We certainly need to reflect on that, yes. I think that Andrew Mitchell himself has said that, with the benefit of hindsight, he would have handled things differently.

Q130 Chair: I am sure that is true.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: We need to think about whether there was some reason why we were reluctant to call in the police to stop Andrew being-I do not know. When we see where this gets to in the end, we need to sit down calmly and discuss with Andrew Mitchell, the Prime Minister, myself and everybody else involved the wider lessons that can be drawn from this. You can always learn from these sorts of things.

Q131 Greg Mulholland: May I raise with you the report in The Independent in December, which said that the Prime Minister had known that the evidence was suspect, presumably on the basis of your investigations? You will also have known that the evidence was suspect, but it was not pressed with the police, according to The Independent, for fear of poisoning relations with the police. Is that true?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I do not think that was a consideration at all, to be honest.

Q132 Greg Mulholland: So The Independent report was entirely wrong.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I cannot comment on that specific report, because I do not think that I have read it, but if it says what you have just said, that was not the consideration.

Q133 Chair: Can I just clarify one matter? Did we hear you correctly when you said that the Principal Private Secretary who spoke to the police sergeant in question did not take a note of that conversation?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, he did take a note. I think the question was whether I had read that note as part of my review. I have read it; there is a note and I read it subsequently, but it was not relevant to my review of the e-mails.

Q134 Charlie Elphicke: Having read that note subsequently, do you think that it is credible as an accurate recollection of the events, in view of your review of the CCTV footage, or is there a discrepancy?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I have said several times now that I have not attempted to assess the veracity of the police account against the CCTV footage. That is not what I have attempted to look at.

Q135 Chair: Which I think is what we are very concerned about. I understand that you think that was not in your remit.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It clearly would not have been appropriate to ask the Cabinet Secretary to start investigating the veracity of the police logs or the police account. That is a matter for the IPCC, not the Cabinet Secretary.

Chair: Exactly.

Q136 Charlie Elphicke: I am wondering if what actually happened is that it just did not occur to anyone at the time that it would be possible that there could be a massive fabrication here-no one thought that could ever happen; it just did not enter anyone’s mind. Is that what happened? Was that part of what underpins the thinking here?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No. I think we accepted that there were unanswered questions, including the possibility of a gigantic conspiracy or a small conspiracy. Those were unanswered questions, but we decided on balance to let matters rest as they were. We decided to stick by Andrew Mitchell, keep him in post and move on. That was the decision taken.

Q137 Alun Cairns: Finally, Sir Jeremy, just for clarification, you said to the Committee-I just want to make sure this was heard properly-"To be honest, I did not look at whether the word ‘pleb’ was used." Is that right or not?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: It is correct, and I did not look at that because that is an issue that you could not establish from silent CCTV footage.

Q138 Alun Cairns: But isn’t that fundamentally what the Prime Minister needed to know?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: There are two stages here. There was the first stage, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, when the police had one version of events and Andrew Mitchell had another.

Q139 Chair: Did the PPS’s note use the word "pleb"?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I cannot recall, to be honest. Fundamentally-

Q140 Chair: So there is a record in No. 10 of a conversation with a police officer immediately after the incident that goes absolutely to the heart of the controversy, and you cannot remember whether the word "pleb" is in that note?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: I cannot remember whether it is specifically worded-

Q141 Chair: Because it was not in your remit?

Sir Jeremy Heywood: No, it was not in my remit; it was absolutely not in my remit. So there was the issue about whether the word "pleb" had been used. The police had one version of events. Andrew Mitchell has always maintained he never used that word, and the Prime Minister takes that.

Q142 Chair: We suspect that there will be some very big lessons to learn from this incident, Sir Jeremy. Nevertheless, if there are no further questions, we are extremely grateful to you for your candour, and for coming to give evidence to us this morning.

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Prepared 15th April 2013