Financial watchdog trains staff to field MPs’ questions

Political consultants were paid thousands of pounds to help train senior Financial Services Authority staff how to handle questions by MPs.

They included former Conservative minister and one-time London mayor candidate Steven Norris who was hired to impersonate an MP questioning the FSA executives. He took part in mock-up parliamentary committee sessions, held last year, where the executives were put through make-believe grillings similar to the ones they faced at the House of Commons.

The FSA has spent about £75,000 on political consultants since 2003, much of it connected to training.

Treasury committee chairman John McFall, a Labour MP, said: “Frankly I think this is a waste of money. This is a perfect example of a black hole in public spending.”

The FSA said: “From time to time we employ experts to train our senior people when they have to appear before select committees so they can give clear and concise answers. It is not about training our executives how to dodge questions.”

FSA chief executive Hector Sants was trained in the dos and don’ts of how to answer MPs’ questions. Up to 10 FSA executives were trained by PR firms College Hill and Citigate.

The story broke after a national newspaper obtained details under the Freedom of Information Act.

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