» Friday, November 26, 2004


Asked why Ministers were "hiding" and sending civil servants out instead to make statements about issues such as the DWP IT problems, or the NAO traffic report, the PMS said that this was not the case at all. She said that in both cases highlighted, both the spokesmen responding to these issues were extremely well qualified to speak for their departments.

When asked repeatedly why Ministers were not making themselves available, the PMS said she thought the question was unfair, as Ministers regularly made themselves available for media interviews, for questions in the House, etc, but equally, that did not mean that officials were not able to explain a situation if necessary. The PMS also said that all Ministers did interviews regularly and at the same time, there were senior officials who could explain policy issues.

When pressed that the officials were civil servants and not politicians, the PMS repeated that officials were just as able to go out and explain the situation.

When asked to clarify the phrase "blown out of all proportion" the PMS explained that reports had suggested that people on benefit were being adversely affected by the computer problems. However, the majority of claimants were receiving their money as usual.

Asked how many people were affected by the IT problem, the PMS said that journalists should speak to the department for figures.

Asked of there was going to be a general inquiry into government computers, the PMS she was not aware of any such inquiry taking place, but that the DWP and CSA were looking into their current problems to resolve them as soon as possible.

Asked if it was a mistake to use big suppliers, such as EDS who provided the computers for the DWP, the PMS said that all government departments had to go through a very strict procurement process to secure contracts for the best services available.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought there were any implications for the impending computerisation of the NHS, the PMS said these were all issues would be looked at to ensure that the new services provided by an IT company would be the best available.

Asked whether the computer problems at the DWP might lead to job cuts, the PMS said the journalist should speak to the department.

Asked if there was a single government department that oversaw IT, or if each department dealt with their own IT, the PMS said she as far as she was aware, each department had to negotiate their own contract.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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