MINUTES OF EVIDENCE, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION select COMMITTEE
(UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 689 – v)
Wednesday 29 March 2006
Q452 Mr Prentice: Craig Murray says that because you have an interest in all these matters, you should not be the person who has the final say, it should be an independent disinterested body of people. There is some force in that, is there not? If books are being published and they mention Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, doing this, that or the next thing, it would be better if someone other than Jack Straw decided whether the book should be published?
Witness: Rt Hon Jack Straw, a Member of the House, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, gave evidence.
Q429 Chairman: In that case, let me start off briefly, and I apologise for the fact that we shall be interrupted. When you last came in front of this Committee you were introducing the Freedom of Information legislation and you were the purveyor of openness. My sense is that you have now come as the purveyor of closedness, that is that you take a dim view of these former diplomats and former civil servants who rush into print with their memoirs. How can one approach be reconciled with the other?
Mr Straw: I think it is easy to reconcile, and indeed I am still a purveyor of openness. Let me say that I spend far more time in the office seeking to expand on answers to parliamentary questions than ever I do in seeking to restrict them. I remember Norman Baker, when I was in the Home Office, although we had some disagreements on policy, complimenting me for openness. So I am very keen on openness and being as open as possible, but you will recall, Chairman, during all the debates which you and I personally had on the Freedom of Information Bill that all sides accepted there was a balance and the balance is built into the Freedom of Information Act itself between openness on the one hand and a public interest which actually requires that information in some cases should be kept secret, in some cases should be wholly exempt and in other cases should be confidential for a period. This particularly arose in discussing the exemptions to cover the business of Government and it was accepted on all sides, the politicians and officials had to have a private space within which to be able to examine issues in frankness without the possibility that their views (as decisions were being formed, not at the point where they were ready to be promulgated) and that that debate would be made public. There was a very clear understanding that if that debate was going to be made public it would actually make the quality of decision making in Government much more difficult and would actually undermine it. So far as these memoirs are concerned, let me say this: I served, 30 years ago now, as a special adviser in Government for three and a half years, I served for two years from early March 1974 until April 1976 as special adviser to Barbara Castle and then for fifteen months from April 1976 until July 1977 as special adviser to Peter Shore. I formed the view then that I could not do my job unless there was complete confidence in me not only by the ministers I was serving but also by the officials alongside whom I was working. You have to live by your deeds and you have to be judged. I never ever thought it appropriate, as it were, to lift the veil on the private advice which I was giving to the ministers I was serving, nor to expose the views of the officials, because if I had been of that mind and I had said to both the ministers and the officials, “Look, here, you need to know I am keeping a diary and the moment I can I am going to write this up and publish it for money,” both the ministers and the officials would have said, “Thank you very much, but you can’t do your job in that way and we can’t do our job either if everything that we are saying to you is going to be published very shortly after you leave this job, so there’s the door.” The test that I apply, for example in respect of Christopher Meyer, is that if any of those who had been dealing with him at the time (whether they were ministers, the Prime Minister, officials, his own colleagues or foreign diplomats) had thought then that he was writing a diary and was going to publish it with no regard effectively for the Diplomatic Service Rules nor for confidences that he had been offered then everybody would have said, “Thank you very much, Christopher, but we are not willing to have a relationship with you on that basis, and indeed you are incapacitating yourself from doing the job.” That is a very different issue from general openness in government.
Q430 Chairman: One of the issues which we shall want to discuss with you is whether the rules for former ministers are the same as the rules for former civil servants, but your reference to Barbara Castle is interesting and I know that you were a special adviser to Barbara Castle in the 1970s, because we have been looking at the history of all this and we have had in here some of the people from that period. We have had David Owen and Bernard Donoghue in and we had Tony Benn in a week or two ago, and they took us back to the Cabinet records of those days and of course when, in the wake of the Crossman diaries and then the Radcliffe report, Harold Wilson wanted members of that Cabinet to sign undertakings that they would follow the rules and not rush into print, Barbara Castle said no, Tony Benn said no, Roy Jenkins said no and so did one or two others, so it is quite difficult, is it not, making this stick?
Mr Straw: I do not think it is so difficult to make it stick, and let me say that I think there are two obligations on ministers, but they are in some respects (not all respects) different from those on officials, and I will explain why in a moment, if you wish. That was a particularly difficult period and Richard Crossman had been determined to try and breach the rules. In those days, in any event, let me say, there was far too much secrecy. I have been refreshing my memory of the Radcliffe Committee Report in preparation for this session and I had actually forgotten that in those days just the fact of who was on a Cabinet Committee was an official secret, so I have no doubt that 30 years ago I would have been breaking the Official Secrets Act just mentioning, as I did earlier, that I have a Cabinet Committee meeting which I am chairing at 4.30, and the level of classification of documents, say in the Department of Health and Social Security, which does not have that many secrets, was absolutely extraordinary. There is not only more openness now, but in practice and in law many more powers are available to parliamentarians and to the public to get at truths which ministers or officials may wish to cover up, and there have been recent controversies to prove that. That is a different issue, in my judgment, from keeping diaries. I have said what I said about diaries. I do not keep a diary myself. I am uncomfortable about the idea of diaries. Barbara Castle was very nice about me on every page where I appear, so I have no complaints personally about her diary keeping, but I do just say that if people are going to write a diary quite swiftly after the time they leave then it can be very difficult in terms of personal relationships.
Q431 Chairman: Can we just try to unravel some of the points as we go along, because I asked you about the Freedom of Information Act to start with and you said it was designed to protect certain categories of information, and of course it was, but if you go back to those debates I remember we had these very exchanges and you were adamant that it was not designed simply to protect politicians from embarrassment, that there had to be proper criteria, yet when I look at the Diplomatic Service Regulations –
Mr Straw: The new version or the old version?
Q432 Chairman: I think both actually – the criteria which are given for things that should not happen, one of them is publications that “create the possibility of embarrassment to the Government in the conduct of its policies”.
Mr Straw: Which paragraph is that?
Q433 Chairman: I am on paragraph 2.4. Surely that is quite inconsistent with what we argued about freedom of information?
Mr Straw: No, it is not. First of all, because this is talking about responsibilities on officials. What this third tier does is to reflect the fundamental relationship between civil servants and ministers. What you have in this country, and I happen to think it is a good system, is a permanent civil service who serve successive governments of different political persuasions and there is essentially a bargain between the civil service and ministers and political parties. The bargain is that we, as ministers, we collectively as a government, take on trust those officials who appear before us. Even after all these years in government, apart from my own private office and very senior officials, I have no say whatever, nor do I think I should, over the appointment of officials. You take them on trust both as to their professionalism, their integrity, their ability to keep confidences and their general trustworthiness. In return, as a minister, you offer them trust and agree that you will not seek to know their political opinions, provided they reciprocate in terms of loyalty to the Government, and also you do not gratuitously criticise them because they cannot answer back. It is not for officials to create the possibility of embarrassment to the Government in the conduct of its policies, that is for parliamentarians, it is for the use of powers under the Freedom of Information Act. It is for parliamentarians, and I have spent 18 years in opposition, so every day of my time in opposition I would try and embarrass the Government, and quite right, too. It is for journalists and for members of the public these days under the Freedom of Information Act, for which I am proud to say I was responsible.
Chairman: I think we will settle for that as the opening exchange. There may be one or two votes, but we will resume once we have done that.
The Committee suspended from 2.47 p.m. to 3.11 p.m. for a division in the House
Q434 Chairman: We will continue our session, and I apologise again for the disturbance. We were having an opening exchange about this balance between freedom of information generally and the provisions to do with controlling publications by former civil servants and also former ministers. Just one last point I would put to you on this is that when Sir Jeremy Greenstock came to see us, our former man at the UN and our former man in Baghdad – and I am sure colleagues will want to ask you about some of the details of that case – he put a very, very strong argument about where the balance of public interest would lie in a case like his. He said, “Mistakes were made over Iraq and part of the whole point in writing about it is in the public interest, the lessons to be learned from the true story rather than from assumed facts or distortions of facts. I think there is a value in some transparency about these things in the public interest.” Is that not a strong argument?
Mr Straw: I think it is a strong argument. I do not think it is a conclusive argument, and it has to be balanced against other considerations. Could I just make it clear that I have absolutely no criticism to make of Sir Jeremy Greenstock. He observed the rules, he submitted his book. I had a discussion with him and that would have been preceded by some correspondence. We had a difference of view, but he accepted that the rules were such that in the end it would be my view which would prevail, and let me say that he is a diplomat whom I hold in the highest regard, and also on a personal level I have got very great affection for him. I just want to make that clear. As it happens, what I read of the book was rather helpful to the Government’s case in respect of Iraq rather than unhelpful, so there was no suggestion of seeking to stop its publication because of embarrassment. Could I just say in respect of that, Chairman, because you asked me about that in the truncated discussion, the rule in DSR 5, paragraph 2, is “create the possibility of embarrassment to the Government in the conduct of its policies”. We are not talking about embarrassment to the Government generally or embarrassment to individual members of the Government because something has been said personally disobliging, and it is quite important to say that that rule is qualified by “in the conduct of its policies”. Of course, above all with issues of war it is crucial that there are records and that these records are in due course available for scrutiny by historians, by parliamentarians and by the public. That has always been the case and that is absolutely fundamental because in war, more than anything else, ministers should be fully accountable, responsible and answerable for the decisions which they have advised Parliament of, and they have put men and women in harm’s way and some of them will have been killed and injured, which has been the case in respect of Iraq. Coming to this discrete issue about Sir Jeremy Greenstock’s book, he was only able to gain those insights that he had because everybody around him, including me, assumed that he was following the same rules and conventions of confidentiality as everybody else in the room, everybody else who was receiving in writing minutes and memoranda. So he had privy access, confidential access. I think in that situation – and this is a point which in the end without very much debate he accepted – it cannot be for one individual to determine whether those conventions and rules should or should not be broken because the system simply cannot operate in such circumstances. It has to be some kind of objective set of rules and objective criteria.
Q435 Chairman: The problem is, he went through all the processes. As you said yourself just now, he played exactly by the rules, submitted the manuscript, was getting all the clearances and then you saw him, I think, and told him he should not do it?
Mr Straw: No. There was one thing which he might have done, and I think we now make it very clear in the new rules, which is to seek approval in principle before entering into a contract with a publisher. As I say, I have no criticism of him in respect of that, but it happens to be the case that if he was applying the rules to the letter then he should have sought prior clearance for the writing of the book and that may have saved a lot of difficulty. In any event, there was correspondence with Jeremy. I then had submitted to me an extract, not the whole book, and I know that he made the point to you when he saw you that I had not read the whole book. I have got a huge amount to do, but what I did do was to read all the extracts which had been flagged up for me which were relevant and got a sense of it, and I felt that it should not be published because it breached a number of the criteria laid down by Radcliffe and reflected in the DSRs. In the end – and I do not know whether you are complaining about this – ministers have to make decisions. If you are saying to me he felt strung along by officials, that is simply not the case. As I recall, officials were in no different a position from me, but in the end these things are matters for ministers in any event.
Q436 Chairman: But the Diplomatic Service Regulations say: “The final authority for all members and former members of the Diplomatic Service is the Permanent Under-Secretary”?
Mr Straw: Yes, and the Permanent Under-Secretary agreed with me as well, let me say, so there was not an issue between Michael Jay and myself, but I am entitled to have an opinion in that situation, I would have thought.
Q437 Paul Flynn: What we heard in evidence from Mr Greenstock was, “At the end of June 2005 Sir Michael Jay informed me that the Foreign Secretary had just become aware that I was intending to write for publication and had expressed strong objections, though he had not read the text.” Greenstock told us that the writing is clearly written for publication and all the signals were that it would be okay and that you personally had intervened before you had read the book and said you did not want it published. Is that true?
Mr Straw: I had been given a synopsis of what was in the text, I had not read the text at that stage, but I took exception in principle to the idea of a very senior diplomat publishing a record of events which were as fresh as they had been in such circumstances. I just come back to the point I made right at the beginning –
Q438 Paul Flynn: Rather than repeat the point, could I carry on as there is a number of questions I want to ask in the limited time? Is not the difference that your attitude to Christopher Meyer’s book (which was tittle-tattle and of no great consequence) was that you were happy to see that go ahead, offensive as it might have been to you personally, but that you had strong objections to Craig Murray’s book about Uzbekistan and Greenstock’s book because they were in a different category, because they talked about something serious, which was the relationship between Britain and America, and that was something which might embarrass you and embarrass the country and you wanted to stop them being published?
Mr Straw: There is a complete consistency between the decisions which were taken in respect of the Meyer book and those taken in respect of Jeremy Greenstock’s book, and also which have been taken in respect of the Murray book. In the end, a judgment was made in respect of Meyer’s book – and this was spelt out by Lord Turnbull when he gave evidence – that we were unlikely to succeed in obtaining an injunction to restrain publication because it was mainly tittle-tattle. It was fairly inoffensive tittle-tattle, but Meyer was disobliging about me, amongst many other people, but that seemed to me to be not remotely a reason for seeking to prevent publication. For that reason, Meyer was written to on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary to explain that we were not going to seek to restrain publication, but neither were we approving it. In respect of Jeremy Greenstock’s book, it was different and the reason it was different was because we judged that it did breach those criteria laid down in Radcliffe and which successive governments have followed.
Q439 Paul Flynn: But the criteria which you were worried about, surely, was the personal embarrassment to yourself as Foreign Secretary?
Mr Straw: No.
Q440 Paul Flynn: The name of the Greenstock book is The Cost of War and would you not agree that the cost of war in Britain was born by the 102 families who lost their loved ones as a result of that decision to go to war in support of Bush, and is it not more plausible that the reason you wanted to stop the book was to prevent the full truth of the war and its aftermath being published?
Mr Straw: No, not remotely the case, Mr Flynn. You are right to say that those individuals and their families have born the very high cost of war. As it happens, from the extracts I read I do not think the book by Jeremy Greenstock is remotely disobliging about me at all and on the whole from what I saw it was actually supportive of the Government’s case rather than not supportive. But I come back to this key issue, which seems to me fundamental for the Committee and to be behind the whole of these rules, which is that if either Jeremy Greenstock or Meyer had said to us when they were in meetings with us, “Look, you need to know that I’m writing all this down and I’m going to publish a nearly contemporaneous record of confidential discussions in which I am participating,” we would have had to have said, “Well, thank you very much, but you cannot do your job.” They could not have done their job, is the answer. So there is an issue here not just about the publication of memoirs, there is an issue here about how you obtain and maintain good governance in the interests of the country.
Q441 Paul Flynn: Craig Murray’s book – and you would agree, I believe, that Craig Murray worked in a country with an odious regime which he alleges routinely murders and rapes its own citizens using the agents of the state, and in fact he alleges that they boil prisoners alive? He was distressed by what he saw in his period as our Ambassador in Uzbekistan and he wants to get that information in the public domain. He claims that he was strung along by the officials. At the official level he had no trouble, it was the exchange of emails, messages and letters, and he withdrew many parts of the book to accommodate the Government’s objections, but when he got to your level, the political level, he was stopped and he lays the charge that he was stopped entirely by you, personally by you. Is that right?
Mr Straw: First of all, let me make this clear in respect of Craig Murray: we supported Craig Murray in the position which he took in respect of the abuse of human rights by the Uzbekistan Government. That is not just in private, it is true in public as well. If you look through the human rights reports which we have published over the years, they clearly supported what he was saying, not least based on his own reporting. As for the decisions which are currently being taken in respect of Craig Murray, how it works in Government is that submissions come up to ministers and where a permanent secretary may, by the rules, have technically the final decision, it is rare for a permanent secretary to act without seeking the opinion of the Secretary of State. In the case of Craig Murray, he has been a deep embarrassment to the whole of the Foreign Office at an official level as well as of concern to ministers. I made the final decisions and I can provide the Committee with a note of the sequence of those decisions, but I am responsible for those decisions.
Q442 Paul Flynn: Craig Murray claims to have under the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act detailed documents which consist of minutes about the handling of the disciplinary procedure against him, and in particular he says they give irrefutable evidence of the detailed personal involvement of the Secretary of State, Jack Straw, both in holding minutes and in writing minutes in the setting up and detailed conduct of the disciplinary charges against him. This evidence is included in the text of his book and he says that you have repeatedly denied that you have any connection with the action taken against him. Is that true?
Mr Straw: I would have to see the details. Of course the Permanent Secretary kept me informed about the disciplinary processes which were to be begun against Craig Murray, but were subsequently withdrawn, a decision with which I had nothing whatever to do, neither with setting up the disciplinary process nor its withdrawal, let me say. It is also quite important to bear in mind that Craig Murray in the end left the service on medical early retirement, he was not sacked.
Q443 Paul Flynn: He argues that the laws of defamation, libel, the Official Secrets Act, Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act, the lot, give enough protection to make sure that he does not overstep the mark so far as the publication of his book is concerned. His legal advisers approved the publication of the book.
Mr Straw: His legal advisers?
Q444 Paul Flynn: Yes. The only reason it has not been published – and we do not know what is in it – is that your Department and you personally threatened to use Crown copyright against him, which would involve his publishers in an expensive legal action and effectively gag Mr Murray. Is that true?
Mr Straw: We have made our position clear to Mr Murray and that has been laid out in correspondence. I do not have a copy directly here, but I can get one in a second. That has been made clear to him. Of course, if you come into a service – and I do not believe that even you, Mr Flynn, are suggesting otherwise – you sign up to a contract in that service, accept all the privileges which go with being members of the Diplomatic Service, but obligations too –
Q445 Paul Flynn: What are the obligations which apply to Christopher Meyer?
Mr Straw: Allow me to finish, please. If you then break those obligations, or appear to break those obligations, then of course you must bear the consequences.
Q446 Paul Flynn: But why do they not apply to Christopher Meyer? Christopher Meyer almost certainly broke those obligations and you did not act against him because what he was writing was tittle-tattle, but when someone is writing something which has serious consequences about our relationship with America you ban the book?
Mr Straw: No. As I say, there is this fine but rather important distinction to be made between, as you describe it, tittle-tattle – and much of Meyer’s book was tittle-tattle of the salacious kind – where the advice was (and it was pretty clear) that there was no point pursuing Christopher Meyer through the courts and other circumstances where the potential damage to the national and the public interest appears to be more substantial. You have a particular view of our relationship with the United States, but I think there is a general principle here which does not only apply to our relationship with the United States but with Germany, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China and any other country with whom we have diplomatic relations, which is that those relations cannot be properly conducted unless the core part of them can be conducted in confidence. I may say that that was agreed by Parliament when we were taking through the Freedom of Information Act. So what we are seeking to do in this is not very different from policies agreed by Parliament not very long ago after very extensive debates on the Freedom of Information Act.
Q447 Paul Flynn: How can we be certain that you are acting in the national interest, or by seeking to ban these two books acting in your own personal interest to avoid embarrassment to yourself?
Mr Straw: No, I am not acting in my own personal interest.
Q448 Paul Flynn: Would that be a legitimate thing to do, would you say?
Mr Straw: In any event, if I were to, that would come out in any court action which may take place. In the case of the book by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, as I say, I have no criticism of the way he has conducted himself. He was a very fine diplomat who provided excellent advice to the Government. I regard him as a friend as well and, as it happens – and I have already said this – so far as I know, the book was not remotely disobliging about me in any event and on balance supported the Government’s position. In respect of the Craig Murray book, let me say that Mr Murray has already published an awful lot of his position on websites, and that has been very well known, and were there to be legal action I am sure that one of the points Mr Murray would take would be that there was some kind of personal interest by me, but there is not and the record books show that.
Q449 Mr Prentice: Is the Foreign Office going to take legal action against Craig Murray’s publishers if they go ahead and publish the book?
Mr Straw: We have written to Craig Murray setting out the legal position. I am afraid I am not, Mr Prentice, going to anticipate decisions we make. We do not know precisely what the book will contain and where there is any consideration of legal action it is not wise to air one’s options in public, and I am not going to.
Q450 Mr Prentice: Apparently, there is going to be a film made with Alan Partridge, Our Man in Tashkent!
Mr Straw: Yes, so I see.
Q451 Mr Prentice: What are we going to do about the film?
Mr Straw: Let us cross that bridge when we get to it, is the answer.
Q452 Mr Prentice: Craig Murray says that because you have an interest in all these matters, you should not be the person who has the final say, it should be an independent disinterested body of people. There is some force in that, is there not? If books are being published and they mention Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, doing this, that or the next thing, it would be better if someone other than Jack Straw decided whether the book should be published?
Mr Straw: First of all, I am told – and I have not read the Murray book – that it does not contain much detail about me. There is no suggestion in the book that I was personally concerned or involved in his dismissal, and I was not personally concerned or involved in the disciplinary proceedings, which in the end were aborted; nor was I involved in the decision to agree early medical retirement for him, I want to make that clear. He did, as you know, decide to stand against me in Blackburn. That was his democratic right. I am sitting here because I won the election and he is not sitting here because he did not, so I do not feel any personal animus towards him and we both conducted ourselves in the way in which people conduct themselves in elections, and it is his democratic right. The position is that we have not approved the book, we are not going to pursue legal remedies to prevent publication, but we have reserved our rights and we will actively consider our legal options if he publishes. I think that is entirely reasonable.
Q453 Mr Prentice: Can I go back to Jeremy Greenstock, whose book is in the fridge at the moment! He was our man in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004 and he cannot tell the world about his experiences, but Paul Bremer, who was the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has just published a book. Have you read Paul Bremer’s book?
Mr Straw: I have not read Paul Bremer’s book.
Q454 Mr Prentice: I do not want to sound impertinent, but you are the Foreign Secretary. Why have you not read the book, or had someone in the Foreign Office do a little pr?cis of it and boil it down?
Mr Straw: I do not want to sound presumptuous here, but I guess I know a good deal of what is in it anyway and, frankly, he is not on my reading list.
Q455 Mr Prentice: Does it shock you that you are not in the index, not one reference?
Mr Straw: No, not at all.
Q456 Mr Prentice: This was in 2003 and 2004, and yet there are lots of references to Jeremy Greenstock.
Mr Straw: Good. He was working alongside Jeremy.
Q457 Mr Prentice: And Bremer is describing events which Greenstock presumably would describe if his book was available for publication! It is a funny old world, is it not?
Mr Straw: Let me just say this: first of all, of course there will be loads of references to Jeremy Greenstock in the book because they were working alongside each other in Baghdad, so it would be astonishing if he wrote a book about his experiences in Baghdad without mentioning Jeremy Greenstock. As far as I recall, I only went to Baghdad during the period when Bremer was there. The other point, and it is a very important point, is that you are suggesting that the rules or lack of rules which apply in the American system should apply to the British system. Okay, but the two are not cognate and in the American system, as we all know, the whole of the senior staff of the administration are politically appointed. So the conventions and rules which apply in respect of those staff are completely different from those which have to apply if you are to have a permanent civil service which serves successive governments. Mr Prentice, you know that to be the case, and it is absolutely fundamental. If we were to have a system in this country where everybody at a senior level in the Foreign Office, all 460 members of the senior management service of the British Foreign Office, bar a few, or even the majority, were political appointees who went through the same kind of system including agreement in Parliament (as happened in the States), then the conventions and rules which should apply in respect of both simply would be different. But our system is not that system and our conventions and rules have to be established to take account of ensuring that our system can operate properly. Since you are the Public Administration Committee, I just say to you that public administration would collapse if we had a permanent civil service which simply could not be trusted by ministers. It would not work.
Q458 Chairman: We are testing both sides of this argument, and it is a real argument.
Mr Straw: I know you are, and it is a serious argument and if I may say so, without being impertinent, it is a really important question which he raises.
Q459 Chairman: But the point is, we tend to think here the sky is going to fall in if things happen, and then we find the sky does not fall in. Paul Bremer publishes his book and the sky does not fall in. The Americans do not say, “We can no longer conduct our foreign policy because these people write books like this,” and you get Greenstock, as you say, a very responsible figure, who thinks he has got something to contribute to public debate, no tittle-tattle, very responsible, and yet you say he cannot do it, despite the fact that he has been through all the clearing process?
Mr Straw: He has not gone through all the clearance process because he did not get clearance, and he did not get clearance for a very good reason.
Q460 Chairman: That is because he met you!
Mr Straw: It was not just because he met me, but I have a role in that. I happen to be the Foreign Secretary and he was working with me, and yes, he did have something important to say. Of course he has something important to say, as I have already complimented him, but what he had to say arose from his admission to confidential discussions and his acceptance of confidences. That was the basis upon which he received that information and you cannot receive information on one basis and then unilaterally decide you are going to change the basis upon which you received the information, otherwise, to come back to my point – and you are right, it is a really important debate – public administration will break down and the confidence of ministers in officials who are part of a permanent civil service (whether it is the Home Civil Service or the Diplomatic Service) will start to evaporate, and that is an issue not just for the current Government but governments of all parties and at all times.
Q461 Mr Prentice: But Christopher Meyer would say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and there has been a whole stream of memoirs published by politicians still around today, our colleague Clare Short, the late Robin Cook, and so on and so forth. So that is what Meyer would say, that is it quite wrong that retired diplomats should have constraints put upon them, quite onerous constraints, which do not apply to others?
Mr Straw: First of all, let me say that I saw from Christopher Meyer’s evidence that he was trying to make some distinction between being a serving officer and then a retired officer. The Diplomatic Service Rules as they were at the time when he retired were very clear that these responsibilities and obligations continued on him. Also – and I think you flushed this out – it simply was incorrect for him to claim that he was unaware of the Diplomatic Service Rules or that they had not been drawn to his attention, because they were explicitly drawn to his attention when we first got wind of his book by the head of the relevant department on 30 June 2005. I have two things to say on ministerial memoirs. First of all, ministers are in a different position because ministers are publicly accountable. This is reflected in Radcliffe and in the evidence of Lord Turnbull and Lord Wilson. Ministers are publicly accountable for their actions, so there has to be a point at which they can be brought to account or offer account, particularly if they resign from government as, for example, Clare Short and Robin Cook did under this administration and Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe did under the administration of Mrs Thatcher. But that said, rules should apply to ministers, and they do, and in both Clare Short’s case and Robin Cook’s case they submitted their text in accordance with the Ministerial Code and got clearance. My understanding is that in each case, certainly Robin’s case, he changed some part of the text.
Q462 Chairman: Geoffrey Robinson, your colleague from Coventry?
Mr Straw: I am aware of Clare Short, but I am not aware of –
Q463 Chairman: He just published, he did not go through any of the rigmarole.
Mr Straw: He may get that, and I think there is an obligation on ministers because it cuts both ways. There is a particular obligation on ministers because it cuts both ways. There is a particular obligation on ministers, in my view, not gratuitously to criticise officials who cannot answer back. That was one of the reasons why there was such concern about the Crossman diaries, and that is reflected in the Radcliffe Report.
Q464 Mr Prentice: Meyer is very, very critical of the process. In fact, I called Meyer a liar.
Mr Straw: You did.
Mr Prentice: Yes, and there was a dispute between Christopher Meyer and Sir Michael Jay about what happened at the conversation which took place on 4 June, I think, 2004. I have now received a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office dated 21 March which tells me, because we sought clarification from the Permanent Secretary, “Michael Jay has been consulted” – this is from Heather Yasamee – “and his recollection is that while he may not have cited [the Diplomatic Service Regulations] formally, he believes that he delivered a clear enough message of concern that Christopher Meyer was getting close to crossing the line protected by the Regulations.” That is a point which Christopher Meyer was making, that the process was just all over the place. He maintains he was not told about these Regulations in June 2004.
Mr Straw: In 2004, I think that was in respect of something he had said on the television or radio, not in respect of the publication of a book. It was later, as I recall the sequence, that we discovered. I think it was something on the internet.
Q465 Mr Prentice: Yes. I am just going to refresh your recollection. This was the letter from Sir Michael Jay to Christopher Meyer on 7 August 2005. I do not want to get submerged in the detail, but he says, “As to our conversation on the telephone in June 2004, we have, on the basis of your letter, sharply different recollections.” This is from Meyer to Jay. “You called me to say that people ‘over the road’,” presumably Number 10 –
Mr Straw: Yes.
Q466 Mr Prentice: — “as well as Jack Straw and Patricia Hewitt, were concerned about things that I said or been reported to have said. You added that I should myself be concerned to have disturbed such major figures. Jack Straw,” he said, “may even call me.” So that is what it was all about.
Mr Straw: Can I just say that two things happened. Back in 2004 there was concern about things which Meyer was saying or writing, and I cannot actually remember the basis of that. It certainly was not a book at that stage. I was concerned about it and there was also concern in Downing Street. I did not know Patricia Hewitt was concerned, but evidently she was. As a result of that and also concerns in the office – let me say the Diplomatic Service as a whole (if I may offer this on their behalf) were actually very angry about Meyer’s behaviour. The result of that was that Michael Jay spoke to Christopher Meyer in June 2004. Michael has set out his recollection and apparently he did not directly draw attention to the DSR, but what is the case is that back in December 2002 when he was sent a pre-retirement letter by the then Head of the Human Resources Department, Alan Charlton, on 2 December, he was told on page 13 – this letter, I think, is before the Committee, a copy of the letter from Heather Yasamee of 30 June 2005 – “After retirement you remain bound by the duty of confidentiality under the Official Secrets Act. You should consult the Head of Personnel Policy if you are considering taking part in any activities (including writing for a publication) in ways which may disclose official information or use of official experience or which may affect the government’s relations with other countries”. So he was very clearly on notice, and he was reminded back in 2002, and then when this letter was sent in June 2005 when we had got information that he was going to publish a book, he was reminded explicitly of the terms of the Diplomatic Service Code. There is no question about it. So for him then subsequently to say that he did not know anything about it or that in subsequent conversations Michael Jay failed to say, “I am calling you in respect of DSR 5,” is, frankly, risible, laughable.
Q467 Chairman: Let us not get lost in the detail, but why did you not just get Meyer in like you got Greenstock in and say, “Be a good chap”?
Mr Straw: Because it was clear from the conversations which Michael Jay had reported to me that that was not going to work.
Q468 Chairman: Because he was not a good chap, he was a cad, was he not?
Mr Straw: Well, that was your description rather than mine, and I have already said, as I said on the Today programme at the end of November when I was first asked about this, he broke very clear trust, no question about it.
Q469 Chairman: But if the conclusion is that the good chaps do not get to publish and the cads do get to publish, something has gone wrong, has it not?
Mr Straw: As I said to Mr Flynn, there is a difference in the case of Meyer and that of Jeremy Greenstock. Meyer’s book is mainly tittle-tattle. Yes, if you pitch your book at that sort of level the chances are that it will not be subject to legal action, but what has happened in the case of Christopher Meyer is that he has destroyed his reputation and actually the sanction which he suffered, including from this Committee, is far greater than any sanction he is likely to have suffered in court. He has destroyed his reputation. I think Richard Wilson or Andrew Turnbull said to this Committee that one of the sanctions was ostracism. The guy has been completely ostracised. He has also raised huge questions about the credibility of the Press Complaints Commission. So the legacy of his publication and his betrayal is a very substantial one and a very poor one for him.
Q470 Mr Burrowes: In relation to these memoirs, such as Sir Christopher Meyer’s and others, you talk in the context of the issue of trust in public administration and good governance. Is not the problem, though, and in a sense the mess that is around in relation to these memoirs, not so much the issue of publication but ironically what those who are publishing are seeking to expose, which in the words of Lord Owen (who gave evidence to us) concerns the separation between impartial administration and political decision making, which has become blurred, and in his words has led to disillusionment bordering on contempt for politicians by civil servants and diplomats, and vice versa, and indeed in Sir Christopher Meyer’s case he seeks to expose a fiction that Foreign Office and its diplomats are being cut out of the loop between Number 10 and the White House, and others have similarly probably expressed displeasure as well. It is that fundamental concern within the administration that they are seeking to expose which has led to the problems we are in now?
Mr Straw: I do not think that is the case, as a matter of fact, and here I am parti pris, but I do not believe that there is any difficulty in relations between ministers and officials in the Foreign Office, and equally there was none when I was Secretary of State for the Home Office, the Home Secretary. Also, I was not aware that David Owen had said that, but I have to say that in many ways I think the relationship between civil servants and ministers is healthier than it was 30 years ago when I worked alongside David Owen, when he was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to Barbara Castle. Of course, there is going to be creative tension between ministers and officials, for sure, precisely because officials are permanent and are going to take a long view. Officials will also wish to ensure that ministers do not cut corners, and ministers will be impatient, trying to get themselves and their government re-elected, and so there is that tension; but it is also the case that Government these days is infinitely more accountable than it was 30 years ago, much more accountable. All sorts of things were covered up, and could be covered up, 30 years ago which could not possibly be covered up today. There were no Select Committees to speak of 30 years ago. The Departmental Select Committees did not get going until late 1979. The level of the number of parliamentary questions which were put to ministers was a handful compared with today. There was no Freedom of Information Act, no Human Rights Act. So the level of scrutiny is very substantial and, what is more, on the precise point, Mr Burrowes, you are raising, or I think you are implying, where an official believes that a minister is acting improperly, there are, first of all, proper procedures for dealing with that and there is legal protection (provided those procedures have been followed) for whistle-blowers which were not there 30 years ago.
Q471 Mr Burrowes: Yes, but I just take it a bit further, whether the culture has changed, particularly for civil servants. I recognise, perhaps, to some extent the accountability issue in relation to politicians, but as far as civil servants are concerned, when they see themselves used, abused or disused – two senior civil servants have been removed recently, Nigel Crisp, Johnston McNeill – they may see that their accountability can only be shown eventually in being forced to seek to publish their own accounts and there may be a sense of grievance now which Lord Owen himself says was not there previously, that the way an administration deals with its civil servants can lead to that grievance, which leads ultimately to people wanting to publish?
Mr Straw: I regret any situation where individual civil servants are subject to severe public criticism and I do not think it is right either. I am happy to criticise officials who I do not think are doing their job, but I think part of the responsibility that rests on ministers is that they are not party to exposing that criticism on officials publicly because they cannot answer back. I am very clear about that. Can I also say that the fact that one or two permanent secretaries may have resigned early or taken early retirement is nothing new. There were cases in the sixties and seventies, and they continue as well. It is a feature of all governments that from time to time people in such senior positions may not see eye to eye and may feel that they have, as it were, served their time and their purpose and will then take early retirement, but I do not think that is evidence that the conventions are being undermined.
Q472 Kelvin Hopkins: Specifically following what David was saying, these memoirs – and there are going to be more of them – do give the very clear feeling that the morale in the civil service was lower than it was and that Meyer may have been a lightweight bit of a smart alec, and so on, but he did feel he was being marginalised. He was a senior Ambassador who was marginalised in a very serious situation, and others are trying to publish and not being permitted to do so, and others no doubt, Sir Nigel Crisp and others (Lord Crisp as he is going to be now), will publish in due course. They are obviously unhappy and frustrated and it seems to fit in with an article today by Michael Binyon in the Times suggesting that all power is actually being taken by Downing Street and the Foreign Office is now no longer the glory it was and that it could be replaced by a fax! That is a quip of his, but on the other hand, he is making a point. Is it not the case that government is changing significantly and that power is being more concentrated and that ministers are now seen to be, by the civil servants, the Downing Street representatives in the department, not their representatives in Cabinet, which is what they used to be?
Mr Straw: No, I do not agree with that analysis. First of all, on the issue of morale, there is no evidence whatsoever that Christopher Meyer or Craig Murray are exemplars of morale or anything else in the Foreign Office, indeed the anger that is felt by the vast majority of people in the Diplomatic Service about what they see as a personal betrayal by people whom they treated as colleagues is absolutely intense. Also, if you happen, Mr Hopkins, to have been to the leadership conference, which we held in the Foreign Office yesterday, I think you would get a sense that morale is pretty good. This has been a very tough period, the last three or four years, because of September 11 and everything else which has gone subsequently, and the financial circumstances, because of those pressures, have been difficult, but the Foreign Office has come through that, in my judgment, with flying colours. On this old sore about power shifting to Downing Street, it is the case that where you have a strong Prime Minister he will seek to exercise authority over individual departments. That is not just true for the present Prime Minister, it was true for Margaret Thatcher and it is true for any Prime Minister down the ages who feels in a dominant position. But Secretaries of State who are doing their job acknowledge the authority of the Prime Minister, but also ensure that they argue with the Prime Minister, argue in Cabinet and argue bilaterally. That has always been my approach, certainly not to spill the beans publicly but to be very robust in what I think is the right judgment, and sometimes the Prime Minister may agree with me, sometimes he may not. Let me say in respect of the Foreign Office – I have not seen that article and it is actually a parody of the situation – what happens is that where you have a country moving to war the decisions have always in respect of that shifted to Downing Street, and that is right because the ultimate responsibility for leading the recommendation to Cabinet and to Parliament has to be a matter for the head of government because there is no more serious issue than whether a country should go to war. I have actually seen this over the last four and a half years, but as that decision is implemented and other issues move onto the agenda of the Prime Minister then the focus, in this case the foreign policy, shifts back. If you take, for example, the most dominant issue of the day today, which is Iran, the whole of that dossier is being run in the Foreign Office by me and by my officials. Of course, I have kept the Prime Minister informed and his officials, but it has not remotely been a dossier which Downing Street has in any sense been initiating, and the Prime Minister has been very happy indeed with that. I could go through a whole list of other dossiers as well.
Chairman: I do not want to get too wide if we can avoid it. I am anxious to get you away by the time you need to be away, so perhaps we could rattle it along a bit.
Kelvin Hopkins: I will come back another time.
Q473 Jenny Willott: You seemed to suggest earlier that you believe it is fundamentally wrong for a diplomat to publish memoirs of any kind, no matter what the content is?
Mr Straw: No. If I have given that impression, I have not meant it. Diplomats have often published memoirs. I thought this was a joke when I read it in my briefing and it turns out that one diplomat recently published a book about his memories of bird-watching as a diplomat. It would be absurd to try and have any control over that. It was called A Diplomat and His Birds. I will get it for Mr Prentice! But I do not say that, and provided diplomats are willing to submit to the rules, that is fine. Quite a number have published memoirs, but the fundamental issue here is the issue of time. Plainly, after 30 years people publish books and that is very different from three years or three months.
Q474 Jenny Willott: I was going to ask about that because what we have been looking at as part of this inquiry is whether the current rules work, and if not what should be done to change it. Do you feel that the current rules are working at the moment or that they do need alterations?
Mr Straw: They are working up to a point. I think it is wrong to suggest, either in respect of officials or ministers, that they have totally broken down. Most officials understand the obligations on them very clearly and observe them, which is why they are so angry about what happened in the Meyer case, and I think most ministers do, but there can be some who push things. The codes did work in respect of Clare Short and Robin Cook, two very high-profile people who resigned. The 15 year rule of Radcliffe has plainly broken down, in my judgment, and also so far as the Diplomatic Service Rules were concerned, it was clear that there were some ambiguities; not enough, in my view, to allow Christopher Meyer to excuse his behaviour, but there were some ambiguities, which is why I issued a change of rules recently. I said, I think in a letter to this Committee, that I thought it was necessary to do that immediately but I wanted to take account of the recommendations this Committee had to make about whether they ought to be changed for the future.
Q475 Jenny Willott: With Christopher Meyer’s book, since he was not asked to make any changes to it, was the process done correctly or not? He was not actually asked to make any changes, which appears from the evidence that we have taken to be unusual, if not unique. Do you not think that he could be justified in actually considering that therefore he was okay to go ahead and publish?
Mr Straw: No, not remotely, and he was told explicitly and in writing that the fact that he was –
Q476 Jenny Willott: Before or after?
Mr Straw: At the time, as I recall. Yes.
Q477 Jenny Willott: At the time meaning before or –
Mr Straw: Just bear in mind that he played a game and he sought to avoid his obligations under the rules for weeks and weeks and weeks. He has plainly written the book well in advance of what he said. He then kept writing these hysterical letters to officials in the Foreign Office, complaining to one of the Director-Generals about the pompous and bureaucratic way in which he had been treated when in fact he had simply been asked to abide by obligations. I may say that as the head of one of the largest missions in the world, he was himself requiring all the people who worked for Her Majesty’s Government to meet them themselves, so he knew very well what the rules were and he was playing around. It is only very late in the day and as a result of this informal intervention by Howell James that he came to submit the book at all.
Q478 Jenny Willott: Some of the things which we have been looking at as possible alternatives have been looking at the use of Crown copyright to make it less profitable for people, which would clearly help, time limits, whether it should be actually specific time limits or whether it should be dependent upon whether some other key players have left their particular roles, and so on, and also whether it should be a contractual obligation within people’s contracts of employment that they seek clearance. Do you think that those would have helped in the recent case?
Mr Straw: Certainly this was a point which was put rather forcefully by members of this Committee. There is concern about the way in which people may profit, and profit rather handsomely, from breaking confidences which they have obtained in the course of what are actually rather well-paid jobs, which they could only undertake because they had said they had accepted confidences. So I think looking at issues of profit, holding them to account and contractual obligations are very important and I think the Cabinet Office has submitted a memorandum to you today setting out the proposed changes in the Civil Service Code, which has some of those in mind. Could I just say, Ms Willott, that the publisher of Christopher Meyer’s book was written to on 4 November to be told that we have no comments to make on the proposed book, and then going on to say it is not my responsibility to check whether remarks attributed to individuals were accurate or complete and that he should not therefore imply from this response that the book has any form of official or unofficial approval. As I say, this point was made by Lord Turnbull. First of all, he said that courts have, over history, been more or less unusable in terms of enforcement and these obligations are ones which are there partly in law but partly in convention, because that is the way our institutions work.
Q479 Jenny Willott: Yes. Could I just mention the motives which might be put in place if the rules were going to be beefed-up. Going back to what Tony said at the beginning, which is that when there was the hoo-ha into the Crossman diaries back in the 1970s, most of the Cabinet seemed to refuse to sign up to or agree a lot of the recommendations. Do you think that your ministerial colleagues would agree to new rules this time around?
Mr Straw: I cannot speak for my ministerial colleagues, but I think they are more likely to than not these days.
Q480 Jenny Willott: Do you think most of the spin doctors of Number 10 would?
Mr Straw: If you are asking me about special advisers, I think that special advisers are much more in a position of civil servants than they are of ministers. I served as a special adviser for three and a half years and you gain confidences from other civil servants as a special adviser doing your job which you would never ever gain as a minister, so I happen to believe that similar rules should apply to special advisers.
Q481 Jenny Willott: So as to civil servants rather than to ministers?
Mr Straw: Yes, broadly the same as to civil servants rather than as to ministers, and special advisers are not accountable for their actions. Although they are political appointees, in terms of their accountability they are in a more similar position to civil servants than they are to ministers.
Q482 Chairman: Just on Jenny’s point there, if the Prime Minister came forward with the proposition, “Look, it is time to put a line in the sand here, boys and girls. We have now decided that we are going to have some new rules. You cannot publish for so many years. No more of these instant books, diaries. It must go through the Cabinet Secretary and there must be prior approval for anything you want to do,” you would be there first signing up?
Mr Straw: If the recommendations were sensible, yes, I would.
Q483 Chairman: Of the kind that I have described?
Mr Straw: Yes, I would.
Q484 Chairman: Do you think your colleagues would also?
Mr Straw: I cannot speak for all my colleagues. As I say, I actually think the atmosphere in Cabinet these days is much more collegiate and collective than it was at the time of Crossman, Jenkins, Barbara Castle, Tony Benn, significantly more. Could I just say this about timescales, because Jenny asked me about that: similar issues have arisen in respect of freedom of information. Whether information should be made public is always a matter of time. There is some information which comes out sometimes 100 years later which was highly secret but there is no point in keeping it quiet after 100 years. Most information we publish at 30 years. What we agreed in the House – and the Chairman will remember this – in discussions in respect of the Freedom of Information Act was that the 30 year rule was too crude. There is quite a lot of information which can be published and made available under the FOI almost contemporaneously. You have got to make a judgment about where the public interest lies.
Q485 Chairman: You said 15 years is dead in the water. If Jeremy Greenstock comes to you this year and says, “Okay, last year I couldn’t, this year can I?” —
Mr Straw: The 15 years has plainly not been followed.
Q486 Chairman: When could he?
Mr Straw: I was just about to make the point, Chairman, that it depends on what exactly he is talking about. To use an example which would not be in his book, but if there were a compromise of intelligence then 15 years would be too short in most cases, but if it is the normal run of the mill, well after the particular administration has left office –
Q487 Chairman: That is the test, you think?
Mr Straw: I think it is part of the test. It is not conclusive, but it is part of the test.
Q488 Jenny Willott: Do you think Alastair Campbell is behaving in an honourable way?
Mr Straw: Yes, I do, from what I have seen, and he actually let me have a copy of the letter which he had written to this Committee where he has made it clear that he is intending to stick by the rules, and that is in character as well.
Q489 Grant Shapps: Foreign Secretary, we were actually privileged to have Sir Christopher Meyer in here as part of his world book promotion tour for DC Confidential and, to be honest, I did not really particularly take to him, a slippery sort of character, hard to pin down, and very difficult to lay a glove on, as the media pointed out afterwards. I can understand why he really gets up your nose actually, but can you actually name one element, something he wrote, which is actually damaging?
Mr Straw: His book was not stopped, and if it had been directly damaging to the public interest we would have sought to stop it. I read your evidence, Mr Shapps. I thought the press were very unfair, actually. I thought you had laid a glove on him, but there we are.
Grant Shapps: You will not get round me that way!
Mr Straw: But it was because he did not appear to have breached the key criteria for legal action that we did not stand in the way of its publication, but neither did we approve of it, and that needs to be made clear. It was a breach of trust, no question about it. As I have said, as a result of the publication, I think he has suffered reputationally far more than if we had pursued a legal action, whether he won or lost in his particular case.
Q490 Grant Shapps: He may have suffered reputationally but probably not financially, I should imagine, in this particular case, but could you name me one element which was actually damaging, or are you conceding there are none?
Mr Straw: What I concede – and I have not got the book in front of me – is that there was no case for seeking legal action or to prevent him from publishing it, which there could have been and have been sometimes in respect of other publications. Nonetheless – and this is the point about this – the law is a very restrictive facility in these circumstances. The fact that there was not a basis for taking legal action against him does not mean that we approved it. We did it because it was plainly and very significantly a breach of confidence.
Q491 Grant Shapps: So really actually what you have experienced is what we have all experienced, that he is the sort of guy who gets under your skin? He is annoying? You do not approve of his book, but actually there is nothing that he did that was wrong?
Mr Straw: No. Let me say that when I was dealing with him day by day, from time to time, when he was Ambassador in Washington I rubbed along with him because I actually think (to come back to my point about the permanent civil service) that that is what you have as a duty as a minister. You take the collective civil service as is and get on with it. I have got no particular views on that.
Q492 Grant Shapps: So the problem is actually, as you have described it, that really he has just been unprofessional? That is the complaint, that he has been unprofessional, but he did not do anything illegal?
Mr Straw: Plainly, he did not do anything which caused us to take him to court, and I have answered that, but he had been unprofessional. He had broken the trust which was fundamental to him getting the job and keeping the job.
Q493 Grant Shapps: Did you, whilst you were working with him, suspect that he might be the kind of cad that he has turned out to be?
Mr Straw: No. If I had thought that he was going to write a book of this kind, then I would have said to him, “I don’t think you can carry on doing your job.”
Q494 Grant Shapps: So whilst as an Ambassador he may have thrown exceedingly good parties, you would not have thought there was any reason not to stay at his residence, for example?
Mr Straw: No, I always stayed at his residence. Let me also say that I asked him to stay on because he was due to leave, and did leave, at the end of February 2003. That meant there was going to be a six or seven month hiatus between him leaving office and David Manning taking over, because it was important that David Manning should stay as the Prime Minister’s diplomatic adviser for that period of six months or so leading up to the summer. I asked him if he would carry on, but in the end he refused to do so, for reasons which he has sought to explain to the Committee, and I respected his decision.
Q495 Grant Shapps: So would you now go and stay at the residence of the Ambassador, knowing what could happen?
Mr Straw: I do stay at residences, is the answer. I know this was an issue raised by Andrew Turnbull. I do stay at residences. I have got direct responsibility for Ambassadors and it would be absurd if the Foreign Secretary chose to stay in hotels rather than using the opportunity to stay in the residences –
Q496 Grant Shapps: It is good to hear this experience has not put you off!
Mr Straw: No, no, and going back to Mr Hopkins’s point, what the Meyer book has done, I think, has been to re-enliven these conventions in the minds of officials. I think there will be very, very few members of the Diplomatic Service doing a Meyer in the foreseeable future.
Q497 Grant Shapps: I see, so actually in your mind not only has he damaged his own reputation by disgracing himself and therefore it has been extremely detrimental to him, but it has also done the job of reminding all the other civil servants that they cannot do the same thing? So this is rather a satisfactory outcome?
Mr Straw: I think he has reminded them. These conventions have enforcement behind them, but they cannot work unless people voluntarily sign up to them and follow them. It has just made the service as a whole very angry, and this again was a point brought out by Andrew Tu