5 February 2004

Lord Butler: the man who will investigate

During the Scott inquiry, Lord Butler achieved notoriety by defending Whitehall doublespeak and secrecy to a sceptical judge: 'You have to be selective about the facts,' he said, arguing that government had been entitled to mislead about, for example, delicate negotiations with the IRA or impending devaluations of sterling.

'It does not follow that you mislead people. You just do not give the full information ... It is not justified to mislead, but very often one is finding oneself in a position where you have to give an answer that is not the whole truth.'

He joined in ministerial attempts to undermine Scott's inquiry, although he directed his fire ostensibly at the media, saying the inquiry should 'undo ... the damage that had been unfairly done to our system of government, to the reputation of the civil service and to individuals'.

Southerly Buster is forced to conclude the only reason Lord Butler is to head this inquiry is that Sir Humphrey Appleby is unavailable. A cabinet secretary who has twice failed to find any evidence of ministerial wrongdoing is the perfect candidate to hand down another whitewash.

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