My Lords, the code of conduct for special advisers sets out the duties and responsibilities of special advisers. It also requires special advisers to uphold the political impartiality of civil servants. In their response to the ninth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Government proposed an amendment to the code of conduct for special advisers to provide a further clarification of the relationships between special advisers and permanent civil servants.
My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that reply, I acknowledge his useful contribution to last Friday's debate. But is he aware that in evidence to the Public Administration Committee there was concern that civil servants had been close to being instructed by special advisers? In its ninth report, the Committee on Standards in Public Life called for a Civil Service Act which would include clear statements of what special advisers cannot do and that they must not undermine the political impartiality of civil servants. I think this needs more than just a code. Will the draft Civil Service Bill cover these points?
My Lords, the noble Lord is aware that only last Friday we had a useful and valuable debate on the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and that this was one of the issues that was raised extensively during that debate. We are committed to consulting on a draft Bill. No doubt the issue raised by the noble Lord today—he has raised it many times before—will be one of the issues that will be dealt with and consulted on when the draft Bill is published.
My Lords, because he took part in the debate to which he has just referred, the Minister will be aware that the First Civil Service Commissioner, the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, expressed the hope that that debate would,
"lead to a Joint Committee of both Houses being established to take forward consideration of the most appropriate legislation to reinforce the core values of the Civil Service".—[Official Report, 5/3/04; col. 904.]
Can the Minister say whether that proposal will be given urgent consideration by the Government and will have a fair wind, with their support?
My Lords, the noble Lord's question has been raised on a few occasions before in your Lordships' House. He knows that it is one of the issues which is to be considered as part of the process of consultation. The noble Lord made a helpful suggestion only last Friday with regard to the way in which the two Private Members' Bills and the forthcoming draft government Bill could usefully be consulted on. That is something that we are actively considering.
My Lords, the Minister will recall the notorious Order in Council of
My Lords, I do not know that I consider it to be notorious. My understanding of the position is that it is no different from that which pertained under earlier administrations. There are only three Civil Service posts that have executive powers, only two of which are currently filled. The noble Lord will be aware of the outcome of the Phillis review, the fruit of which was that the replacement for Alastair Campbell no longer has executive powers in the way in which they were exercised before.
My Lords, do the Government accept all the recommendations made in connection with the role of special advisers in the final report of the independent review of government communications published in January?
My Lords, my recollection is that we certainly accepted most, if not all, of the recommendations, of the first published Phillis review. We are actively considering the recommendations made in the subsequent follow-up report published by Phillis.