HC Deb 21 October 1998 vol 317 c1269
11. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

What steps he is taking to co-ordinate departmental policies in respect of the conduct of public officials. [54731]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Dr. Jack Cunningham)

On behalf of the Minister for the Civil Service, the Cabinet Office is responsible for the civil service code, the civil service management code and the model code for staff of executive non-departmental public bodies. Policies relating to groups of public servants for which other departments have lead responsibility are co-ordinated with the Cabinet Office as necessary.

Mr. Boswell

Will the right hon. Gentleman remind special advisers that they are, generally, civil servants? In particular, will he advise and encourage them not to brief against one another with the views of their departmental Minister? In his capacity as lord high enforcer, will he bring some order to government in case the term "beef on the bone" develops an entirely new connotation?

Dr. Cunningham

I can agree with most of what the hon. Gentleman says—I hope that he is pleased with that. As the Opposition know, special advisers are subject to a model contract and to the civil service code. Those provisions will continue.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

May I add my congratulations and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends to the Minister on his new appointment? On the co-ordination of Government information services, is he aware that a number of people, not just the Home Secretary, find it difficult to accept the view expressed by Lord Neill that Government information services should not be used during the holding of referendums where Government policy is being put to the test of public opinion?

Dr. Cunningham

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. He will know that in due course the Government will give a considered response to the proposals from Lord Neill and his colleagues. The specific point that he raised is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of the House.