Tom Watson’s letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell

Sir Gus O’Donnell

Cabinet Secretary

Cabinet Office

70 Whitehall



2 November 2010

Dear Gus,
You will no doubt be aware of today’s report in the Mirror newspaper that the Prime Minister has taken the decision to appoint Mr Andrew Parsons as his official photographer.

Given the current financial climate, and the severe pressure on the public finances, you will be aware that this appointment is the subject of some controversy.

I would be grateful, therefore, if you could answer the following questions:

a)    Can you confirm Mr Parsons’ appointment was made personally by the Prime Minister himself, rather than you or any of your officials?
b)    Can you advise me how long the post of “Official Photographer to the Prime Minister” has been in existence?

c)    Can you advise me what consultation there has been between the Prime Minister, yourself and other officials prior to this appointment?

d)     Can you advise me whether interviews for the post conformed to the requirements of the Civil Service code? How many people applied for the job? Where was it advertised and how many people were interviewed? Are you satisfied that there was open competition for the position?
e)    Who will own the copyright to the photographs taken by Mr Parsons? Will they be the property of Mr Parsons, the Prime Minister or the Crown?

f)     Will the Prime Minister have copy approval before the publication of any photographs taken by Mr Parsons?

g)    The Mirror’s report quotes a Downing Street “source” saying that Mr Parsons will also be attached to the Cabinet Office. Can you confirm this, and advise me how often, and on what occasions, you or your staff have received requests for reportage photographs of current Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude?
h)    Can you advise me what political restrictions will be placed upon Mr Parsons, and the dissemination of his work?

Yours sincerely

Tom Watson

Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

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