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Rogers in Welsh 'intimidation' row

Wales' top civil servant has accused Lord Rogers of 'intimidation' after a heated correspondence with the Labour peer over the Welsh Assembly project.

Welsh Office permanent secretary Sir Jon Shortridge levelled the charge after Rogers demanded an apology from him for derogatory remarks about the project's cost overuns.

The controversy centres on comments made by Shortridge at an Assembly audit committee hearing last December. Shortridge told the hearing that the Richard Rogers Partnership had overcharged its fees before being sacked from the scheme in July 2001.

In a letter to the Welsh Assembly in January, Rogers claimed the civil servant's comments were 'wholly unacceptable' and insisted he was due an apology. The architect - who has since been reinstated to the project (AJ 6.2.03) - pointed out that an adjudication had found in his favour.

In the letter, seen by the AJ, Rogers also criticised Shortridge for suggesting that if the true costs had been known, RRP's entry 'should have been rejected from the competition as non-compliant'.

But in a written response in February, Shortridge defended his comments. Witnesses at the Assembly audit committee hearing should be free from 'this kind of intimidation', he wrote.

'I feel very strongly, ' the letter continued, 'that it would not be compatible with witnesses' obligations to the committee to put them under duress of making an apology for answers they have given.'

Committee member Alison Halford said Shortridge had its full backing, and she labelled Rogers' demands for an apology the 'behaviour of an arrogant man'.

'Shortridge was right to say what he said, ' Halford added. 'He should not be forced to apologise.

Rogers made the mistakes on the project and should be made to realise he was wrong.'

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