Neill Committee (Ministers and Special Advisers)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:53 pm on 3rd July 2000.

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Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office 7:53 pm, 3rd July 2000

I beg to move, To leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 'welcomes the statement by Lord Neill that there is now less cause for concern about standards in public life than when the cash for questions affair led to the setting up of the Committee in 1994; restates the Government's commitment to maintaining a non-political permanent civil service; agrees with the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that "special advisers have a valuable role to play"; acknowledges that the Report deals with the serious issues across a wide range of subjects; and notes that the Government plans to respond before the summer recess.' Perhaps I should begin with an apology, as I am delighted to hear that I have neither sinned nor been sinned against. I am grateful for that double blessing from the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), and I shall try to keep up the record, keep my night job, and shine my halo.

At the outset I wish to make it clear that the Government value the work of the Neill committee highly. We strongly supported the establishment of the Committee on Standards in Public Life in October 1994, which took place amid deep disquiet at the conduct of some Conservative Members. Labour's 1997 manifesto promised to clear up politics and to rebuild the bond of trust between the British people and the Government.

We said that we would clean up politics. Our system of government is centralised, ineffective and bureaucratic. There is unquestionably a national crisis of confidence in our political system. An early decision in November 1997 was to extend the remit of the Neill committee's work to review issues relating to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in the present arrangements.

The Committee's sixth report, "Reinforcing Standards", is a review of its first report. We therefore welcome Lord Neill's statement that there is now less cause for concern about standards in public life than when the affair about cash for questions led to the Committee being set up in 1994.