Business Secretary Vince Cable bewildered a select committee this morning by telling members that a new sub-committee, the Growth Implementation Committee, was yet to meet, before later backtracking and announcing that it had in fact met twice.
When asked by Labour MP Anne McKechin why the much-lauded new sub-committee, which was launched in September, had not yet had a meeting, Cable replied: ‘I can’t tell you why that committee has not been convened yet’ but that he would endeavour to find out. Later in the meeting however, Cable appeared to retract his previous statement, saying that he wanted to ‘correct the record’, as he earlier ‘couldn’t recall meetings of the committee. There were in fact two,’ he added, ‘on September 18 and October 22, so that committee is operating and has met.’
As deputy chair of the new sub-committee, it’s surprising that Cable couldn’t recall the group ever having met – particularly as the records state that the most recent meeting appears to have taken place just last week. But the growth committee itself seems to have shrouded itself in secrecy. Just yesterday LabourList ran an article about it wondering, as McKechin wondered in the committee meeting today, why the new sub-committee hadn’t yet met. As Cable eventually remembered, the sub-committee has apparently now met twice. However, a membership list still hasn’t been released, with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore saying two weeks ago in response to a parliamentary question that details of members have ‘not yet been confirmed’. The plot thickens. What the Treasury spinners have told us (via Twitter), is that ‘ministers for housing, planning, broadband, skills etc’ were also present at the meetings.
This morning’s meeting also stirred up tension between Martin Donnelly, the department’s Permanent Secretary, and Tory MP Brian Binley. Binley raised the issue of the poor results of the BIS staff survey which, he claimed, ‘makes quite depressing reading’, adding ‘if that were my company, I would be deeply worried’. Donnelly’s excuse, about outdated figures, failed to mollify the MP. ‘I’m not going to listen to civil servant waffle’, was Binley’s pithy retort.