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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 18:07 GMT
Byers statement: Key extracts
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers in House of Commons
Mr Byers: "I will not shy away from tough decisions"
Key extracts from Transport Secretary Stephen Byers' statement to the House of Commons about the departure of transport communications director Martin Sixsmith and special adviser Jo Moore.

'Clarify matters'

"It is with some regret that I stand here now, making clear what my views of Mr Sixsmith are.

"But . . . I welcome this opportunity in the House to clarify matters.

"I should emphasise this is not an argument between elected politicians and civil servants.

"What is at issue here is whether one or two unnamed officials, acting quite contrary to the traditions and ethos of the civil service, can be allowed to disrupt and undermine the vital work of a department of state.

"I do not believe they can."

'Broken down'

"Sir Richard told me that in his view the positions of both Martin Sixsmith and Jo Moore had become untenable.

"He felt the best thing for the department would be if they both left their posts because relationships within the department and with its ministers had broken down.

"He recommended that we should seek their resignations.I agreed with Sir Richard's recommendation.

"I said I would talk to Jo Moore and Sir Richard said he would talk to Martin Sixsmith.

"We were clear that the department could not carry on with the communications department in the state it was.

"I believed that both should go. Jo Moore agreed to resign. Martin Sixsmith agreed to resign. I announced the resignations."

'Being investigated'

"It seems that one or more officials from my department began to brief the press that the line used by the prime minister's official spokesman was incorrect.

"At least one official appears to have spoken on this basis saying he was ringing on behalf of Martin Sixsmith.

"So what we had was a concerted attempt by a very small number of civil servants in the press office to undermine the department.

"I should stress that only a very small number were involved and their actions are being investigated.

"The vast majority work in a very good, committed and dedicated manner."

'Future employment'

"I have not been directly involved in those negotiations.

"I have not met or spoken to Mr Sixsmith since his resignation and the detail of these discussions has been conducted by Sir Richard.

"I made it clear to Sir Richard Mottram, however, that in my view - and this view is strengthened by the events of recent days - Mr Sixsmith should not be given a job elsewhere in government.

"Ultimately, I was not in a position to block any arrangement about his future employment elsewhere in the civil service."

'Tough decisions'

"I will not allow this issue to distract myself, my ministerial team or the department from delivering on the challenging agenda ahead of us.

"Long after this issue is forgotten people will judge us by what really matters.

"I will not shy away from taking the tough decisions.

"What really matters to the people of our country is seeing improvements to our transport system, once again valuing local government, providing decent homes for our people, regeneration of our communities.

"That is what we are committed to do as a government and that is what I am delivering - and will continue to deliver, as secretary of state for Transport, Local Government and the Regions."

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
"No such email was sent"
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