[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
MPs call for tighter memoir rules
Sir Christopher Meyer
Sir Christopher Meyer's memoirs sparked the investigation
Civil servants would be prevented from cashing in with unauthorised exposes of their time in the corridors of power under rules proposed by MPs.

The public administration committee says memoirs by top diplomats and civil servants often have "real value".

But financial incentives to produce "shocking" or indiscreet revelations should be removed.

New recruits should be forced to sign away copyright of unauthorised future works to the Crown, the MPs say.

Ministers and civil servants would have to clear any publications with the authorities as they do now.

But the procedures should be much clearer and if civil servants publish without prior clearance, the government would be allowed to seek the profits.

Ministers would be treated differently because they "do not have a contractual relationship with the government".

But the report adds: "A duty to sign a formal commitment to consult before publication should be placed clearly and specifically in the Ministerial Code."

Trust

The MPs' investigation was triggered by the publication last year of DC Confidential - the memoirs of Sir Christopher Meyer.

Sir Christopher ridiculed serving politicians as political "pygmies" and said then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw "took a long time to find his feet".

The former ambassador was strongly criticised by the Commons public administration committee in December, which accused him of damaging the trust between ministers and civil servants.

The committee chairman, Labour's Tony Wright, claimed government was being undermined by such "instant memoirs".

A book by former Downing Street spin doctor Lance Price was also singled out for criticism.

Space

The report stresses the value of memoirs and says there should be a "presumption in favour of publication" but with clear and agreed restrictions.

It says the public interest in openness and transparency has to be balanced against the protection of a space within government for frank discussion and advice.

There have to be clear guidelines, with common principles but different applications to ministers, civil servants and special advisers.

Mr Wright said: "Nothing in this report will prevent memoirs being published. They have a real value and should be encouraged.

"But it needs to be clear what the rules are in order to protect those matters that genuinely need protection, and a fair process to deal with disagreements.

"We believe that our proposals will help to avoid the kind of difficulties we have seen recently, and give more certainty both to memoir-writers and to governments."


SEE ALSO
Meyer 'destroyed his reputation'
29 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
MPs attack 'disreputable' Meyer
15 Dec 05 |  UK Politics
Meyer to stay at press watchdog
23 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Meyer defends diplomatic memoirs
13 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Memoirs shine new light on war
07 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Meyer memoirs attract new critics
12 Nov 05 |  UK Politics

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific