MPs hear colleges chief's apology

19th December 1997 at 00:00
The leader of the 460 colleges in England and Wales has made an unreserved apology to a powerful committee of MPs after admitting that his evidence to them was "fundamentally wrong".

The House of Commons education select committee took the highly unusual step of recalling Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, after colleagues claimed he had misled MPs.

Mr Ward had assured the committee last month that the AOC had a formal register of interests covering senior members of staff.

The issue had been raised by MPs concerned about the Association's openness after The TES revealed Mr Ward had a #163;650-a-month consultancy agreement with health care company Burke Ford Reed, a suggestion denied by Mr Ward.

Questioned by MPs this week Mr Ward admitted that no register, in fact, existed. He said: "I simply got a number of facts quite wrong."

Mr Ward told the committee he had been referring only to a "personal file note" of his own interests and admitted under questioning the note was known only to him.

Mr Ward is currently freed from his post pending the result of an independent inquiry into his actions. He still faces possible disciplinary proceedings from the AOC.

Association chairman Howard Phelps confirmed that no register existed until last month. He said a register was being compiled but had not been completed and circulated to the board.

Mr Ward told MPs: "The matter has also found its way into the press and the comments made therein have spread understandable concern about what the true version is.

"May I begin by apologising unreservedly to you and the committee. I was not expecting so many detailed questions about codes and registers and I simply got a number of points of fact quite wrong, as my senior AOC colleague correctly pointed out. There was I assure you no attempt wilfully to mislead the committee or my board which has since made its own discontent quite clear to me."

Mr Ward told MPs that no other part of his evidence given last month was incorrect. Committee chairman Margaret Hodge thanked Mr Ward but said: "It's rather sad that we have been forced all of us to be deflected to considering a matter peripheral to the inquiry."

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