» Friday, July 15, 2005

Stephen Byers

Asked if the Prime Minister was disappointed by Mr. Byers’ admission, the PMOS interrupted the journalist and said he could not comment on an ongoing court case.

Asked if the PMOS looked forward to commenting at a later date, the PMOS said that in itself might be taken as a comment!

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on Cabinet Ministers appearing before select committees and not giving truthful answers, the PMOS said the question was the polite BBC way of asking the same question! The Daily Express got credit for being direct, but the BBC did not get credit for being indirect! The answer was the same. The PMOS said this would immediately be written into a story about an ongoing court case if he said anything. The public would not necessarily see the distinction.

Asked once the court case had finished, would the PMOS be in a position to comment, the PMOS said the case should run its course.

Asked if it could be surmised that the demands of the Ministerial Code remained in place, the PMOS replied that the Code was still there.

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


  1. Nonsense. The offence is to publish, not to comment, as the PMOS (consummate professional that he is) fully recognises.

    Nice to see that he remains so concerned for the continuing welfare of the assembled hacks, though. But don’t expect any further comment except under considerable duress.

    Byers’ mendacity does not constitute ‘good’ news so any comment from Downing Street will have to wait until a fudged verdict is reached. At that point there may be an opportunity to crow. Failing that and comme d’habitude, they’ll be seeking an early opportunity to ‘bury’ the bad news.

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 18 Jul 2005 on 4:14 pm | Link
  2. We understand that former government minister S Byers has admitted that he lied under oath regarding RailTrack.

    We wish to know when the relevant Minister of State will announce that perjury charges will be laid against the said former minister. If the Minister of State has no such plans, we wish to know if perjury is to be permitted by Labour Ministers (current and former) or if new legislation is planned to erase the crime of perjury from the statutes.

    Comment by jk5 — 19 Jul 2005 on 2:59 am | Link
  3. When did Byers actually lie ‘under oath’? His statements and answers to questioning in the Court were (maybe unusually) accepted as truthful.

    Statements made to Commons select committees and/or to the Commons in the chamber are not made under oath – and both are privileged.

    Perjury is lying to a Court under oath. But perhaps you can tell us otherwise……..

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 19 Jul 2005 on 9:06 am | Link
  4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4685465.stm

    has a transcript of the High Court (Thu 14 Jul) exchanges where Byers eventually admits not telling the truth.

    We assumed, perhaps wrongly, that witnesses in this court would be under oath.

    Our interpretation of procedings is that his lie was only revealed under cross-examination. We believe that Byers’ initial statement to the court was untrue and only when challenged by Counsel he admitted that he lied.

    Comment by jk5 — 19 Jul 2005 on 9:35 am | Link
  5. It is unwise to believe everything written in the public press…. They too have been known to get it wrong. A little care, attention to detail and accuracy can sometimes be useful.

    Byers was asked in Court about his statements to the Select Committee. His written statement to the Court did not cover this aspect.

    As a result of diligent ( – and the Judge could have decided – irrelevant) questioning by the shareholders’ counsel the discrepancy came to light.

    Byers admitted in court under oath that his statement to the Select Committee (not under oath) was untruthful. Thus Byers has not lied to the Court, but has admitted lying to the Committee.

    He is guilty therefore of misleading Parliament. This is not illegal. Indeed for many politicians it is practically a religion and a way of life.

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 19 Jul 2005 on 10:04 am | Link
  6. Lying to Parliament could be construed as contempt of Parliament – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/82017.stm
    Not illegal, but he could be expelled from the House (fingers crossed)

    Comment by Gavin Whenman — 22 Jul 2005 on 5:31 pm | Link
  7. Ah yes, Contempt. Entirely my sentiments toward Byers and all of the other lackeys.

    There’s no chance at all of Byers being expelled. He could resign, but will wait for the nod before doing so. In any event, his actions will be defended tooth and nail by both Blair and Brown – each to stop the focus being shifted to their own actions.

    Expulsion for Contempt of Parliament would require a vote in the chamber. With a majority this big nothing would happen, although Byers could be censured. But then, so what?

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 22 Jul 2005 on 5:42 pm | Link

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