Press Notice 10, Session 2005-06

PASC seeks views on the rules governing the Publication of Political Memoirs

As part of its inquiry into the publication of political memoirs PASC-the Public Administration Select Committee-is seeking views on whether the current system regulating the publication of political memoirs is working.

The Committee is carrying out the first major review of the rules governing the publication of political memoirs since the 1976 Radcliffe Committee inquiry took place after the publication of the Crossman diaries. The recent publication of a number of diaries and memoirs has led to questions about the adequacy of the current system. Giving evidence to the Committee in October Sir Gus O’Donnell stated that he was “strongly against the idea” of selling information through publication in this way and was looking at how to stop it. The Committee has also heard from former Cabinet Secretary Lord Wilson of Dinton and contemporary historian Professor Peter Hennessy earlier this month when the continued reliance on the ‘good chaps’ theory of government was questioned.

In particular the Committee is asking for written evidence on the following key questions:

• Does the keeping of diaries and publication of memoirs prevent open and frank discussion taking place within government between ministers, civil servants, and special advisers?

• Is any lasting damage to the process of government caused when memoirs such as Sir Christopher Meyer’s are published, or do they just cause short term embarrassment to those involved?

• Are the current rules governing the process of the publication of memoirs of those who have held public office insufficient?

• Do the mechanisms for enforcing the rules need to be changed? If so, what should be done?

• Should a minimum amount of time pass between events recorded and the publication of a diary or memoir? If so, what how long would be appropriate?

• Is it right that those leaving public service, either as ministers, civil servants, diplomats or special advisers, should profit from publishing their diaries or memoirs?

The Committee will be taking evidence on 15 December from the former UK Ambassador to the United States and Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Sir Christopher Meyer, former No. 10 spin doctor, Lance Price, and the recently retired former Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull. Further evidence sessions on the subject are also planned for the New Year.


The Committee is inviting written evidence from interested parties by Tuesday 20 December.

Evidence submitted should:

• be submitted as hard copy on A4 paper and as an electronic file also, by email to, or on computer disk in Rich Text Format, ASCII, WordPerfect 8 or Word. Hard copies should be sent to Eve Samson, Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, Committee Office, First Floor, Committee Office, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA;

• have a covering letter containing your full postal address and contact details;

• any memorandum of more than ten pages should begin with a one page summary;

• avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material;

• further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, either by printing the written evidence alongside the oral evidence or by making the evidence available through the Parliamentary Record Office. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005.  Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The Membership of the Committee is as follows:

Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem) (Falmouth & Camborne), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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