Magazine article Public Finance

MPs 'Unhappy' as Birt Shuns Their Questions

Magazine article Public Finance

MPs 'Unhappy' as Birt Shuns Their Questions

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Tony Blair this week rejected criticisms that he hindered Whitehall transparency by refusing to allow his strategy adviser Lord Birt to be questioned by a Commons committee.

But Blair's defence served only to heighten concerns over the former BBC directorgeneral's unpaid role at Number 10, and the perceived lack of openness in how government advisers operate.

A senior parliamentary source told Public Finance that public administration select committee members were 'deeply unhappy' that 'the powerful triumvirate of the Cabinet Office, Number 10' and its advisers had conspired to 'block legitimate calls for improved transparency on Whitehall's decision-making structures'.

Birt was this week accused of hampering the PASC's investigation into central government's strategic decision-making and planning by refusing to answer the committees questions.

In a special report published on November 21, the PASC makes it clear that Birt's refusal was backed by Number 10 and the Cabinet Office.

This is seen as defying a new commitment by Whitehall departments to allow special advisers to appear before MPs. …

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