» Tuesday, November 1, 2005

David Blunkett

Put to him that the Prime Minister felt that David Blunkett had broken the Ministerial code but that he didn’t think the transgression merited any further action other than to recognise that he had done it, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we had covered this in our statement yesterday afternoon. The statement set out the sequence of events and set out that the period between David Blunkett leaving government and taking up this post was four months and traditionally the period recommended before ministers took up posts was three months. What was important was that David Blunkett, as he had said, thought he had understood the rules but had not. Therefore that was why he had made a mistake. He had admitted making a mistake and that mistake did not affect the substance of his job. Therefore he should be allowed to get on with his job.

Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that he had been given all the information by David Blunkett which would allow him to have complete confidence in him without regret, the PMOS said yes. In terms of the information which had come out today, it was not often that he had to cause to quote the Independent on Sunday in aid but if people went back to the Independent on Sunday they would discover that all the allegedly new information had in fact been dealt with by the paper and the Sunday Times as well. It was in relation to that that David Blunkett issued his statement admitting that he had misunderstood the rules and had apologised for that. There had been no new information out there and the Prime Minister made his statement yesterday afternoon in full knowledge of the information that was out there.

Put to him that Sir Alistair Graham had been saying for some time that there should be an independent advisor to ministers and that there should also be someone who was independent to investigate any irregularities, and the Government had done nothing, the PMOS said it was not true to say we had done nothing. The matter was and remained under active consideration. The important point was that there should be someone who ministers could have absolute trust in, in terms of advice, judgment and confidentiality. There were a series of questions around it but it was being actively considered. Put to him that 2 years was a pretty slow form of acting, the PMOS repeated that there were issues to be resolved. It was right and proper that it was considered properly.

Asked if it was accepted that the code had been breached then was it fair to say that the Prime Minister’s view was that breach should be without consequence, the PMOS repeated that all the information available today had been available over the weekend. In terms of the consequences of course you had to judge the implications of a mistake in terms of whether it affects someone’s ability to do the job, and the Prime Minister’s view was that in this case it didn’t affect David Blunkett’s ability to do the job.

Put to him that Lord Mayhew had said quite explicitly to David Blunkett in his letters both in December and March that he should consult the committee before taking up any external appointment or business appointments, the PMOS referred journalists to David Blunkett’s statement to the Independent on Sunday last Saturday. The confusion arose out of David Blunkett’s interpretation of the third paragraph in the 15th March letter over the word ‘voluntary.’ David Blunkett took it to mean one thing where it was now clear it had meant something else. David Blunkett had accepted that he had made a mistake. The question was whether that mistake prevented him from doing his job.

The Prime Minister’s view was that it didn’t. Put to him that it was not the only question, that there were issues of ethical propriety which needed to be taken into consideration and it looked like the Prime Minister was saying that minister’s could do what they liked, the PMOS said that would be unfair. What we had seen was a process where clarification about the rules had been sought and provided so that everyone was now clear what the rules meant. But you did have to make a judgement about the nature of the mistake and whether it interfered with the role of Cabinet Minister. In this case it didn’t. That did not mean that the Prime Minister had turned a blind eye to this mistake, quite the reverse. We had gone through the process of seeking clarification. We had sought advice and David Blunkett had made the decision to sell the shares from his family trust, not because there was an immediate problem but because there was a perception there would be a problem in the future. That should be recognised.

Put to him that David Blunkett didn’t seem to be particularly contrite about his mistake, the PMOS said that David Blunkett had explained why he came to the misunderstanding in his statement on Saturday. David Blunkett had, quite rightly, pointed out the facts of how he notified his Permanent Secretary of the fact that this company did not have contracts with the DWP or the CSA. He was perfectly entitled to do that. What he had responded to was the fear that there could be a perception that at some future point there could be a conflict. He had done the proper thing in doing that and should be given credit for that.

Put to him that this was a clear set of rules and David Blunkett broke those rules, the PMOS said that you had to make a judgment call as to whether making a mistake which he then admitted affected his current role. David Blunkett had not tried to hide that he had this job, what he hadn’t done was complied with the rules and admitted that. Put to him that it wasn’t a question of David Blunkett trying to hide anything but that in the very short period between being Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions he had tried to make a lot of money, which was how it appeared, the PMOS said that in terms of profits and getting rid of the shares David Blunkett had dealt with that in his statement.

Asked what the key third paragraph in Lord Mayhew’s letter had said, the PMOS read it, Lord Mayhew had said: ‘I think it is right to point out that the voluntary character of the scheme for former minister’s is exactly that, it is voluntary.’ That was what the letter said. Put to him that in the previous letters from Lord Mayhew was explicit that David Blunkett should consult the committee, the PMOS said that David Blunkett had admitted that he had made a mistake. As he had said on the 29th October, he thought that he had understood the advice but clearly he had not. Put to him that the message this gave was that if there was a breach to the ministerial code, provided it didn’t affect that minister’s job, it didn’t matter, the PMOS said that in terms of the processes we had gone through over the last few days to clarify what had happened that wasn’t a fair summary. What you did need was a sense of perspective about the nature of the mistake and that was what had guided the Prime Minister. Asked if the Prime Minister felt that that Mr Blunkett had acted in the spirit of the code, the PMOS said that the important thing was that David Blunkett had admitted he had made a mistake.

Asked how this incident had squared with the Prime Minister’s commitment prior to being elected to be "whiter than white", the PMOS said that in terms of the procedure, we had gone through this in a transparent way. We had explained at each stage why the decisions we had taken were taken and David Blunkett had admitted he had made a mistake. Now there was a judgment call about whether the mistake was sufficient to stop him doing his job. The Prime Minister’s view was that it wasn’t.

Briefing took place at 13:00 | Search for related news


  1. Well now – what a surprise. He joins quite a few of Tone’s other chums in providing us with yet another sleazy episode.
    The Gospel according to Tone said " WE won’t be sleazy like the horrible Tories" – yet his Government has been, by far, the worst ever for sleaze in my memory – and I’m not even including Freebie Blair the Lawyer’s (quite who IS she working for? Certainly not our contries interests) little escapades.
    Blunkett should (and would by any normal person) be sacked and thrown out of Govt. altogether. Afetr all he will STILL get his enormous PENSION won’t he?
    However nothing will happen becasue Tone hasn’t got anybody he can really push around to put in his place.
    What can the Tone and Gordy show come up with next I wonder?

    Comment by roger — 2 Nov 2005 on 1:04 pm | Link
  2. Look on the bright side, Roger. Blunkett has done us a very worthwhile service in illustrating that even a blind member of parliament is so little taxed by his responsibilities to his constituencies and to the wider taxpaying public that he can take on three extra jobs – this whilst being paid an eighteen grand honorarium for being sacked from his home secretaryship and living rent-free at our expense – not to mention the time spent in pursuing females young enough to be his daughters. ASk any mp and he or she will tell you they are worked to death, not enough hours in the day. Yeah, right.

    In employing home office staff in the stalking and bullying of Ms Quinn, in fiddling his travel expenses, in interfering in the nanny’s visa application, in lying to the press and to the house of commons and to claimimg that although his disability did not debar him from holding the most important security responsibility in the government it nevertheless somehow automatically excused all his thieving, cheating, lying and bullying and that all he had to do with wrongly obtained monies was to pay them back. Blunkett is a common criminal and for Howard and the rest to bleat that he is an honourable man should make the entire nation puke. Blind or not the place for Blunkett is not in Her Majesty’s government but in Her Majesty’s prison and never mind pensions and sinecures in Europe. As for Sharon Blair she is a shameless grasping hypocrite, ghastly even by the standards of british QCs, but, like Blunkett, usefully emblematic of the vileness of NewLabour and all its members. If ever we fall into being spun so smoothly that we think they are doing something right we need only catch a glimpse of Sharon to bring us back to the awful reality of noses in the trough.

    Thankfully, even though he should never have been in government in the first place, never mind twice his exit today underscores the value of Blair’s judgement, it hasn’t any.

    Comment by john the revelator — 2 Nov 2005 on 5:06 pm | Link

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