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21.01.13

Cabinet Secretary was wrong person to probe ‘plebgate’ – MPs

The Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Haywood have been criticised for their handling of ‘plebgate’, which led to the resignation of Andrew Mitchell as Chief Whip.

The Public Administration Select Committee has stated that the structures for investigating alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code are “not appropriate”. Cameron’s advisor on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, should have been authorised to instigate his own investigations, the MP’s report suggests.

This suggestion has been debated and approved by a resolution of the House, yet the Government has not responded to it.

Mitchell resigned in October, after being accused of calling police ‘plebs’ in an argument outside Downing Street. He has denied use of the word.

The committee said that Sir Jeremy (pictured above during his evidence session to PASC) should have recognised the need for a wider inquiry into the incident.

The MPs said: “Sir Jeremy could and should have advised the prime minister to refer the allegations of ministerial misconduct to the prime minister's adviser for a fuller investigation. That he did not do so is regrettable.

“He could also have advised the prime minister that it would be appropriate to refer any doubt about the police account of the incident to the relevant police authorities to investigate in order to resolve any discrepancies and inconsistencies.”

Bernard Jenkin MP, chair of the committee, said: “We wanted to know what lessons could be learned from the investigation, which clearly failed to uncover the truth. The Ministerial Code itself says that it is not the role of the Cabinet Secretary to enforce the Code. The Cabinet Secretary attempted to investigate this matter but failed to resolve or even to investigate the questions arising from the discrepancies in the accounts of the events, or to advise the Prime Minister that they required further investigation.

“This underlines the all-too-obvious truth that investigations into ministerial misconduct are not an appropriate role for the Cabinet Secretary to undertake. That is why the Code actually says, ‘it is not the role of the Cabinet Secretary or other officials to enforce the Code’ and says the Prime Minister, after consulting the Cabinet Secretary, should refer such matters to his Adviser. Given time, attention and with his relevant experience, Sir Alex might well have uncovered the truth.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

(Image: PA/PA Wire)

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