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Disciplinary Action

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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103.

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will specify the particular guidelines, pursuant to Official Report, 27 November, column 436, which apply to action being taken against senior civil servants who authorise the disclosure of Law Officers' advice to the Government.

Such a situation would be covered by the general guidelines in the Civil Service pay and conditions of service code, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Had they not been engaged in protecting their Prime Minister from being found out by the House, would not Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell have been liable to the same kind of criminal charges which, for a lesser offence, Clive Ponting faced? Once persons, however eminent, get away with these bad habits, as with Rover and the way in which the Prime Minister got rid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, do they not do the same thing again in relation to the House which, were I so indelicate as to mention it, would mean that I would be suspended until Christmas?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not go into more detail. We have been over this time and again. I have explained to the hon. Gentleman that there are detailed guidelines and he has no doubt referred to the copy that is available in the Library. On Westland, the matter has been debated on many occasions and I have nothing further to add.

Does the Minister believe that European Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan was right when he said that Messrs Ingham and Powell improperly disclosed a Law Officer's report? If the Minister believes that, why are those two people in a completely different category from anyone else in the Civil Service? The Minister at least owes civil servants an answer to that question.

As I have already said, and am delighted to say again, I have nothing further to add in relation to that case other than to say that Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell are outstanding civil servants.