Saturday 14 March 2015

Letter from Austin Mitchell to Public Accounts Clerk

This is my letter to the Clerk to Public Accounts Committee

Dear Sarah

Thank you for your letter.  As you'll know I've refrained rigorously from making statements about the committee`s proceedings and never attempted to revive the habit which we had up to 2010 of a committee press officer pushing us on to local media and Armed Forces media to comment on committee reports

I am deeply shocked that someone has had the vicious effrontery to accuse Conservative members of the Public Accounts Committee of supporting the government's wishes that Lord Green should not appear before select committees.   This can only be a politically motivated attempt to embarrass Conservative members before the General Election.

I cannot explain how a leak of the committee's discussions on 11 and 23 February came about but I am happy to report to you that it was not through me.  Indeed I couldn't even leak them now because I don't know what they were.  I didn't realise that we had taken any decisions on either of those two days. You'll realise that being a little deaf I don't always hear the full purport of discussions before the sound loop is switched on for our formal hearings.

I can tell you that I spoke to a reporter from the Guardian after our meeting on Monday and gave him my own view, which I had expressed in committee (being able to hear myself) and in a letter to Margaret, that Green should be called.  I also said that Conservative members of the committee were against the idea. 

If this was a little incautious, because they do not wish their views to be known, then I can only make my humble apologies to them for any embarrassment caused.  But I would point out that such a report is an individual observation not a leak of committee proceedings of the type which you and, I assume, the Clerk to the Treasury Committee are remorselessly hunting down.  Be stern and rigorous.  The reputation of both committees depends on your efforts.  I can`t emphasise enough how important it is that that reputation should not be reduced to ridicule.  We need a stern sense of proportion and a purposeful drive to clean out this Aegean stable.

Yours sincerely


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