Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Judge in his own cause

During the ill-famed Hutton inquiry, Geoff Hoon’s conduct was often described as “slippery” and “dishonest”. We couldn’t follow those events very closely, but we can relate how Mr Hoon, now Secretary of State for Transport, has conducted himself recently.

In a letter dated 17 December 2008 (see HERE), Mr Hoon made known his opposition towards a possible re-hearing of the Gaul Formal Inquiry.

In his elaborate message, the Transport Secretary sought to suggest that the evidence and analysis we had provided over the last three years was not of a quality and quantity that would undermine his confidence in the execution of the 2004 RFI. Consequently, with his confidence intact, Mr Hoon considered himself free from any obligation to have the results of the Gaul RFI re-examined.

Back in 2003, if I remember correctly, Mr Hoon didn’t used to be so demanding, and needed a lot less evidence to be able to claim, against the best experts’ advice, that two trailers found in Iraq were ‘mobile weapons laboratories’. That was a different kettle of fish, of course, but Mr Hoon’s variable stance towards evidence standards, somehow, undermines his credibility as trier of fact.

What intrigued us even more, however, was that, this time, Mr Hoon would reveal neither the source nor the substance of the technical advice that had underpinned his decision, offering us no other option than to take him at his word and rest assured that the hint of political embarrassment or scandal was not a factor in his weighty deliberations, deflecting him from his pursuit of the public good.

(We have, of course, replied to Mr Hoon’s letter, and our response can be read at this link or here.)

Sadly, what follows from the Transport Secretary’s position is that, whenever the results of a government-led public inquiry are contested, no matter how compelling the evidence adduced, it is solely up to the government to decide whether or not those results should be re-examined, and it is totally in the government’s power to cloak their decision-making from public view and independent scrutiny.

I wonder, on a large scale, what the consequences of this trend are going to be.

1 comment:

Fraud said...

Hi

How can I believe it?