HC Deb 11 November 1991 vol 198 cc777-8
38. Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what plans the Government have to expand the numbers of political advisers employed in the civil service.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

The Government have no plans to increase the total number of special advisers. The appointment of a special adviser is a matter for each Minister in consultation with the Prime Minister as necessary.

Mr. Shaw

Has my right hon. Friend seen press reports that Labour Front-Bench spokesmen are proposing that Governments should set up within each Department a large cabinet——

Mr. Speaker

Order. What has this to do with Government responsibility?

Mr. Shaw

They propose that the Government should set up in each Department cabinets with large numbers of staff to monitor and control the civil service. Has my right hon. Friend any idea of the sort of people who would be chosen to fill those posts?

Mr. Renton

My hon. Friend asks an extremely important question. I saw the comment by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) about the setting up of special kitchen cabinets under a possible Labour Government. As the hon. Gentleman's hobbies are listed in Dod's as "eating, cooking and wine" I can see his interest in kitchen cabinets. It would be helpful to know who the Opposition would appoint to such kitchen cabinets. For example, would Derek Hatton be special adviser to the Department of the Environment and would Bruce Kent get a job with the Ministry of Defence?

Mr. Rees

The Minister answered the question about special advisers. What is the difference between a special adviser and a political adviser? What part does the Civil Service Commission play in determining their salary levels? Who are these special advisers and which part of the documents are they allowed to see? Should not the House be given more details about them under any Government?

Mr. Renton

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already answered that question, and the right hon. Gentleman will find it in Hansard last week. In that answer, my right hon. Friend lists the names of all 39 specialist advisers, all but five of whom are political advisers, with those five being special advisers—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman should wait a minute. Those five special advisers offer specific technical advice on subjects such as economics on which they are expert.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know from his wide experience, over the years the Labour party has tended to bring many so-called special advisers into local government. I hope that it would not dream of doing so in Whitehall.