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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 03:17 GMT 04:17 UK
Terror memo aide breaks cover
Jo Moore, adviser to Stephen Byers
Moore: I wish I'd never done it
The government spin doctor who suggested the US terror attacks provided a "very good day" to "bury" bad news has apologised in public for the offence she caused.

Jo Moore, special adviser to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, has not faced reporters since the controversy broke eight days ago and has faced heated calls for her to be sacked from her post.

I fully understand people's disgust at what I wrote

Jo Moore
Transport special adviser
Her comments were made in an e-mail sent after the World Trade Center towers had been attacked, but before the towers collapsed.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Moore said: "I want to again sincerely apologise for the huge offence I have caused by sending this e-mail...

"I fully understand people's disgust at what I wrote. It is something I wish I'd never done and indeed find it difficult to believe I did.

'Terrible error'

"It's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life. I can't take it back - no matter how much I wish - this terrible error of judgement."

Ms Moore had previously apologised in a statement and her decision to face the cameras is seen as an attempt to draw a line under the affair.

I note that the apology was to Stephen Byers and the Government and not the families involved in the tragic events of September 11 in New York

Theresa May
Shadow transport secretary
It comes after Mr Byers continued to stick by his adviser and insisted she would keep her job.

Asked if he was relying on the advice of somebody whose judgement was faulty, Mr Byers told the BBC Ms Moore had made only one error of judgement and had been warned about her future conduct.

"She is certainly staying with me as my special adviser," he added.

Ms Moore has attracted more press comment by staying out of public view since the controversy erupted last week.

But the prime minister's official spokesman said earlier on Tuesday: "She is doing her job, she is just not doing it in the public eye.

If the Secretary of State for some reason or another won't sack her, then his position, I think, should be examined

Tam Dalyell MP
"It is not a permanent change but because of the operational difficulties of all the media attention."

Senior Labour backbencher Tam Dalyell, the Father of the Commons, said the failure to sack Ms Moore raised questions about Tony Blair's own integrity.

He told BBC One's 10 O'Clock News: "If the Secretary of State for some reason or another won't sack her, then his position, I think, should be examined.

"If they are not prepared to do that, it raises the integrity of the Prime Minister himself."

The Tories have labelled Mr Byers a "lame duck" over his handling of Railtrack and decision to stand by special adviser Jo Moore.

Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa May said Mr Byers' refusal to dismiss Ms Moore "revealed his preference for spin and presentation over action and delivery".

Theresa May, shadow transport secretary
May says Byers prefers spin to delivery

"It remains our view that Stephen Byers as Secretary of State is responsible for the conduct of his special advisors and that he, and Jo Moore, should both resign."

The Conservatives have also called on the transport secretary to resign over his decision to put Railtrack into administration.

On Tuesday, Strategic Rail Authority chairman Sir Alistair Morton, questioned the government's claim that it would be able to attract 30bn of private investment after the winding-up of the company.

But Mr Byers defended his plans for the rail industry, saying that the new, non-profit-making organisation would benefit passengers.

The BBC's Guto Harri
"The spin doctor was forced to speak for herself"
Special adviser Jo Moore
"I want to again sincerely apologise for the huge offence I have caused"
Theresa May MP, Shadow Transport Secretary
"It has taken Jo Moore a entire week to make this apology"
See also:

09 Oct 01 | UK Politics
The nature of the beast
12 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Byers backs terror memo adviser
15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Byers let off the hook?
15 Oct 01 | Business
Railtrack: What happens now?
12 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Profile: Stephen Byers
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