Thursday, March 02, 2006


For someone like me, who's never seen £344,000, never owned £344,000, never borrowed £344,000, and certainly never imagined receiving a gift of £344,000, the story of Tessa Jowell and her husband is a confusing one.

The inquiry by the cabinet secretary has concluded that Jowell did not breach the ministerial code because her husband did not tell her that he had received a gift of £344,000. Did not tell her? What strange world is this in which a husband does not tell his wife that he has received such a gift? It is genuinely beyond my ability to comprehend. And the fact that Mills must have known that his wife had a responsibility to declare such a gift?

Jowell said "I full accept that my husband should have informed me [of the £344,000 gift] and if he had I would have reported it to my permanent secretary." Seriously? He didn't mention that he'd been given that much money?

If ever there was a sign of just how out of touch this bunch of vacuous, greedy, super-rich, New Labour goons are, this is it. And I still think Blair misled parliament, the media, and the public. No-one in the grown up media seems to be interested though. The way the story changed in the Times yesterday leads me to wonder whether a few favours were called in yesterday afternoon.

I started off thinking that this was probably a bit of a media storm in a tea cup. Now, there's a stench of rot and decay which is difficult to ignore.

It seems to me that there ought to be a proper inquiry into this. Don't hold your breath though. As of June 7th 2005, when the Inquiries Act 2005 came into force, this is a matter which is soley in the hands of the executive.

Faced with calls for a public inquiry [any public inquiry], a Minister now has the sole and exclusive right to:
  1. Decide whether there should be an inquiry.
  2. Set its terms of reference.
  3. Amend its terms of reference - at any time before or during its proceedings.
  4. Appoint its members.
  5. Restrict public access to inquiries - at any time before or even during its proceedings.
  6. Prevent the publication of evidence placed before an inquiry
  7. Prevent the publication of the inquiry’s report - all inquiry reports are now to be submitted to the Minister who then decides whether to submit it to Parliament. Previously inquiry reports were automatically submitted to Parliament, Minister had the right only to access in advance of any debate on the inquiry's findings.
  8. Suspend or terminate an inquiry.
  9. Withhold the costs of any part of an inquiry which strays beyond the terms of reference set by the Minister.
Oh goodie. Isn't democracy great?

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