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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 18:44 GMT
Mottram's statement in full
Chief civil servant in the Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions (DTLR), Sir Richard Mottram, has published his own detailed account of the events which led to to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers announcing the resignation of the department's press chief, Martin Sixsmith.
Here is the text of Sir Richard's statement in full:
"Given the continuing press speculation about the position of Martin Sixsmith, it may be helpful if I explain more fully what happened between 11 February and 22 February.
"On 11 and 12 February at meetings within the department there were discussions about the scheduling of an announcement about the secretary of state's commitment to publish benchmarks in order to judge railway performance.
"At one stage it was suggested that the announcement should be rescheduled for Friday 15 February.
"When he realised that this was the day of Princess Margaret's funeral, Martin Sixsmith took the unusual step of emailing the secretary of state to advise against this course, which was of course not pursued.
"It would appear that one or more officials chose to make mischief by describing a fictitious email and a made-up story about these events to two national newspapers on 13 February.
"One of the two newspapers concerned has today [Monday] alleged that Martin Sixsmith confirmed the details of the false allegation being made.
"Following press speculation on the morning of 14 February, the prime minister's official spokesman briefed the lobby on allegations concerning Jo Moore and news management based on a line he had cleared with Mr Sixsmith.
"Mr Sixsmith subsequently confirmed on the record that day that this was the case.
"Subsequently that lunchtime and into the afternoon, it seems that one or more officials in the DTLR began to brief the press that the line used by the prime minister's official spokesman was incorrect.
"At least one official in particular appears to have spoken on this basis saying that he was ringing on behalf of Mr Sixsmith.
"Solely at my instigation, the department is currently investigating all of these matters.
"On Friday 15 February, it was clear to me that this situation could not continue and that Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith should both leave their posts, because relationships within the department and with its ministers had broken down.
"I discussed this with Mr Byers.
"He agreed with my proposal.
"We agreed he would talk to Jo Moore and I would talk to Mr Sixsmith.
"I had two conversations with Mr Sixsmith on the morning and lunchtime of Friday 15 February, before his resignation was announced.
"He was reluctant to resign arguing to me that he had acted in a manner appropriate to his responsibilities.
"My own strong view was that his position was untenable.
"He agreed that he was willing to resign on three conditions: that Jo Moore should also resign; that he and I agreed the terms in which his resignation would be presented in a manner which did not blame him; and that he needed to understand the financial terms under which he would leave, although he said these were unlikely to be a difficulty for him.
"I told him that Jo Moore would be resigning.
"We agreed to meet again to discuss his other conditions after a long-standing hospital appointment which he wished to fulfil.
"It was envisaged that his resignation and that of Jo Moore would be announced later that afternoon.
"I agreed that he would take up his hospital appointment which he told me he could do and return to the department by 1520GMT.
"At this stage I informed the secretary of state and the cabinet secretary that Mr Sixsmith had agreed to resign.
"Because he failed to return to the department for some two hours after the time we had agreed, the detailed terms of his resignation had not been finalised nor put in writing by the time it was announced together with that of Jo Moore - earlier than had been planned because of a leak - at 1645GMT on the Friday.
"The terms of the secretary of state's announcement were discussed with me.
"They did not attribute any blame to Mr Sixsmith and were consistent with the discussion I had had with Mr Sixsmith on his second condition.
"I met Mr Sixsmith at 1730GMT that evening.
"At that meeting he argued that he had never resigned.
"He said that the release of the announcement without his agreement changed everything.
"Much of the discussion focused on monetary compensation.
"Since Friday 15 February I have had a number of further discussions with Mr Sixsmith aimed at resolving the terms of his departure, including whether having left the department he should remain within the civil service elsewhere or should leave the civil service and be compensated according to the terms of his contract.
"These discussions have always been confidential on my part.
"I did not, as has been alleged, leak them to the Financial Times.
"I was approached by the Financial Times who already had a story and I explained to them where matters stood in general terms.
"On 21 February Mr Sixsmith's union representative approached me on a confidential and without prejudice basis confirming that Mr Sixsmith wished either to move as rapidly as possible to another post or to agree a settlement under his contract.
"I am revealing these discussions now only because a version of them has already appeared in the press.
"Discussions continued on Thursday and Friday (21 and 22 February) with my putting forward a number of alternative proposals.
"These were conducted on a wholly confidential basis as Mr Sixsmith had requested and a proposal was indeed put forward on Friday evening for him to consider over the weekend.
"I much regret that he chose instead to present his version of the story in a Sunday newspaper.
"The department still stands ready to discuss with him the terms of his departure."
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