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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Pressure mounts on terror memo aide
Jo Moore, left, with Stephen Byers
Jo Moore, left, with boss Stephen Byers
Conservative Party chairman David Davis has urged a high-level investigation after it emerged that a senior government adviser suggested controversial stories could be buried in the news fallout from the US terror attacks.

Jo Moore apologised on Tuesday for sending a memo on the day of the US terror attacks saying it would be a good time to "bury" some controversial stories.


It was wrong to send the e-mail and I accept responsibility for doing so

Jo Moore
Mr Davis has called for Cabinet Secretary Sir Richard Wilson, the UK's top civil servant, to look into a series of government announcements made since the events of 11 September.

His call came despite Downing Street moving to quash suggestions that the timing of announcements such as the move to put Railtrack into receivership had any relation to the US atrocities.

'Extraordinarily stupid'

Home Secretary David Blunkett said circulating the memo had been "an extraordinarily stupid thing to do".

He added that he had delayed publishing some embarrassing immigration statistics by more than a week to avoid any suggestion that his department had tried to diminish any negative publicity.

Asked if he thought Ms Moore should be sacked, he replied that the decision was one for her boss, Transport Secretary Stephen Byers.

Controversial announcements since 11 September
Proposed new councillors' expenses
Gavyn Davies made BBC chairman
Review of student finance
Sellafield plant go-ahead
Picketts Lock athletics stadium plans dropped
Railtrack put into administration
Ms Moore's e-mail, sent at 1455 BST (after the aircraft flew into the World Trade Center but before the buildings collapsed) suggested to press officers that it was "a very good day to get out anything we want to bury".

Mr Davis said the comments were "tasteless beyond belief".

Calling for the investigation he added: "This is something that assaults the integrity of the British civil service."

Jo Moore apologised for sending the e-mail on Tuesday, saying: "I would like to sincerely apologise for the offence I have caused. It was wrong to send the e-mail and I accept responsibility for doing so," she said.

'Values her services'

A Downing Street spokesman said that Ms Moore had committed an "error of judgement" and that it should be kept in "perspective".

"[Transport Secretary] Stephen Byers was first aware of this e-mail on Monday and had discussions with Jo Moore.

"His view was that this e-mail should not have been sent - it was an error of judgement."

Prime Minister Tony Blair shared Mr Byers' view, the spokesman said, adding that Ms Moore would not be sacked because the transport secretary valued her services.

Stephen Byers
Mr Byers is said to value Ms Moore's services
Shortly after the e-mail was circulated a press release was put out over an increase in payments to councillors - normally a controversial local issue.

The DTLR said an announcement on the issue had been planned for some time.

Other controversial news released in the wake of the attacks includes Gavyn Davies' appointment as BBC chairman, the abandoning of the Picketts Lock athletic stadium and the government go-ahead for Sellafield's new mixed oxide (Mox) plant.

Two days ago - the same day that military strikes began against targets in Afghanistan - Mr Byers' department announced it was moving to put Railtrack into receivership.

Downing Street said the Railtrack story had emerged because of media leaks while other announcements had to be made because "you can't put all government business on hold".

'Hard-hearted'

The e-mail was condemned by at least one relative of a victim from the World Trade Center attacks.

The Rev David Smith, whose cousin Richard Cudina died in the atrocities, said the e-mail was the kind of thing that could only have come from the most hard-hearted of people.

"If the idea is that bad news should be buried, this is basically burying bad news of a fairly insignificant kind under the bodies of 6,500 people.

"That is very, very bad for our nation."

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Don Foster branded the news as "unbelievable".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The email was sent before the World Trade Center collapsed"
Tony Wright, Public Administration Committee
"An attitude like this is completely incompatible with any idea of public service"
Rev. David Smith, relative of victim
"This is modern politics at its worst"
See also:

10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Aide apologises for 'attacks memo'
09 Oct 01 | UK Politics
The nature of the beast
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Spinning out of control
29 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Speaker attacks lobbyists and spin
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson's highs and lows
05 Jan 99 | UK Politics
Quitting Whelan blames media
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Government advisers under fire
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