» Thursday, March 25, 2004

Sutton Report/Beverley Hughes

Asked if the Prime Minister retained full confidence in Beverley Hughes following the publication of the Sutton Report today, the PMOS said yes, absolutely. He believed that Ms Hughes was a first-class Minister who had one of the hardest briefs in Government. She had made a significant difference, for example by halving the number of asylum applications. Of course, no one was pretending that there weren’t difficult, complex issues facing the Government. We acknowledged that there were real challenges ahead. However, the Prime Minister continued to believe that she was an excellent Minister. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that Ms Hughes had given a response to critics of the Sutton Report on Radio 4’s The World At One today. The Report had been carried out by a senior IND official who was a well respected individual in his particular field. The conclusions of the Report were based on his considered judgements after taking all the evidence into account. Put to him that the Report’s suggestion that Ministers had not known what was going on in their own Department would, in itself, suggest a high level of incompetence, the PMOS said that Ms Hughes had been absolutely upfront about what had happened. Everyone acknowledged that mistakes had been made both in terms of issuing the guidance and the oversight. As Ms Hughes had stated when the issue had first come to light, since she was the Minister with responsibility for this area, it was her job to put things right and make sure they didn’t happen again. No one was claiming that what had transpired had been the best chapter in the IND’s work. However, the considered findings of the Sutton Report showed that these decisions had been taken, wrongly, without reference to more senior officials. It was important to make sure that did not happen again.

Asked about the Report’s recommendation that Civil Servants should be trained to deal with Ministers, the PMOS said that Civil Servants had a long history of working and dealing with Ministers. The only reason why this incident was news was because it was an extremely rare event. That said, if particular training needs had been identified, then obviously they would be addressed. However, the recommendation should not be seen as generic to the whole of the Civil Service.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news


  1. I understand why TB stands up for Hughes because if he sacked every incompetent minister, he’d appear weak and following the press blindly. Plus he’d have few ministers left. On the other hand, keeping these inept lot in just perpetuates the general mood of mediocrity coupled with loyalty that he seems to achieve so well.

    Roll on the European constitution. that should be fun for the PMOS.

    Comment by DEGREEK — 27 Mar 2004 on 8:21 am | Link
  2. Not long now for the squirming Hughes…

    Comment by DEGREEK — 29 Mar 2004 on 10:44 pm | Link

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