» Tuesday, November 30, 2004

David Blunkett/Budd Review

Asked if the Government accepted that following reports of a second investigation regarding the Home Secretary, things were starting to "unravel" and if there were to be even more investigations, was the Government happy about them, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman replied no and yes – i.e. no, things were not starting to unravel, and yes, we were quite happy if other people wanted to investigate. An inquiry had been set up to review the most serious allegation.

Asked if the Home Secretary was going to pay back the money for train tickets, the PMOS referred the journalist to the Home Office for an answer.

Asked how Sir Alan Budd was going to proceed with the investigation, the PMOS replied that it was matter for the Home Office and for Sir Alan Budd.

Asked if it was correct that the Prime Minister was to review the Ministerial Code of Conduct, the PMOS said the Code was always under review, and it was likely to be reviewed after the next election as was the case after each election.

Asked what aspects of the review might be worthy of investigation, and whether that would include the question of who sat on inqueries, the PMOS said the position of inquiries was set out after the Select Committee in September 2003. We said at the time that while a panel of experts had a superficial attraction, the drawback was a panel needed to be announced months, if not years, ahead of an investigation. The people who would be on a panel may not have the experience or expertise needed to investigate a particular issue. That was why the decision was taken to select someone at the time when an issue arose, as that person then had the necessary experience and expertise. We believed in the case of Sir Alan Budd that this had proved to be the case.

Asked what part of the Ministerial Code was causing concern, the PMOS replied that there was not one particular part, it was a matter of keeping it al under review.

Asked if it was thought to "look bad" that Ministers were able to pick the people who would decide on their "guilt or innocence", the PMOS replied that in this particular case, it was the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office who decided who should head the investigation.

When pressed that the Permanent Secretary worked for David Blunkett, the PMOS pointed out that he also worked in the Civil Service, alongside the head of the Civil Service.

Asked whether the Ministerial Code should be "brought down a notch" to keep up with current standards, the PMOS said as with all guidelines, the Code was under constant review to make sure it was appropriate.

Asked if the Home Secretary would be able to concentrate on his job if the "whole affair" ended up in court, the PMOS repeated what he had told journalists earlier which was private matters were private matters, and he was not going to get involved in them, or in legal matters arising out of them.

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

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