Committee (and remaining stages)

Part of Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Lords at 12:15 am on 7th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord Armstrong of Ilminster Lord Armstrong of Ilminster Crossbench 12:15 am, 7th April 2010

My Lords, perhaps it would be convenient if I also spoke to the five amendments. I do not want to comment on Amendment 1. I should have been prepared to go along with the proposals dealt with in Amendment 2 and the investigations into the code of conduct by the commission if the consent of the Minister had been required for the exercise of such an investigation. Without that, I do not think that I favour it; I could not support that amendment.

Amendment 3 would limit to three the number of people who can be appointed otherwise than on merit in senior diplomatic service appointments. I support that amendment and would be happy to see it passed. On Amendment 4, it is of course already the principle that promotion in the Civil Service is on merit, but I do not think that it should be made statutory. Promotion differs from appointment in that it is very much a management matter and, although it should be on merit, there will be cases when that has to be qualified. There are such things as horses for courses, and it may well be that a candidate for promotion to a particular appointment is not suited to that appointment-it would not suit him or he would not suit the appointment. Management must be free to take that into account. If these proposals on promotion on merit are put into statute, there will be a raft or flood of appeals on promotions, which would hold up the process of promotion and make management a great deal more difficult. I could speak at greater length about it, but I cannot support Amendment 4 and I hope that the House will not accept it.

Amendment 5 deals with the number of special advisers. As the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, has suggested, the danger of fixing the maximum of two per Minister is that everybody will go up to the maximum. I am conscious of that danger, but it makes sense to have a limit on the number of special advisers. I should myself have settled for one, with the safeguard that the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, has proposed for the Prime Minister to have discretion to go above that in particular cases, but I would not object to Amendment 5 if the House were minded to accept it.