HC Deb 13 March 2002 vol 381 cc871-2
1. Bob Spink (Castle Point)

What the Government's policy is on compensating special advisers who are required to resign. [40116]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mrs. Barbara Roche)

The circumstances in which compensation may be paid to special advisers who resign from the civil service are set out in the "Model Contract for Special Advisers".

Bob Spink

The Prime Minister has the final say in appointing special advisers. Will the Minister tell us exactly what role the Prime Minister plays in dismissing advisers, and will she say what amount of compensation Jo Moore was paid?

Mrs. Roche

The hon. Gentleman's question was about special advisers who resign from the civil service. Their conditions are laid down in section 13 of the "Model Contract for Special Advisers". It will be for Jo Moore and the Department to work out the exact terms.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

Will my hon. Friend agree to have a look at the evidence given to the Select Committee on Public Administration last week by Sir Richard Mottram about the whole matter of special advisers and how they could be required to resign? Does my hon. Friend agree that it is sometimes not clear whether the Secretary of State or the permanent secretary is responsible for requiring a special adviser to resign? For future reference by Governments of all complexions, would it not be better to clear that up now?

Mrs. Roche

We have an obligation to consult on a civil service Act, and of course we shall listen to what people have to say during that consultation. The House should bear in mind, however, the fact that the "Model Contract for Special Advisers" was published for the first time by this Government, and that they also published the code of 'conduct. That will interest Conservative Members, one in eight of whom I understand to be former special advisers.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Whose job is it to ensure that special advisers cannot break their code of conduct, and therefore their contracts, with impunity? What action was taken when Ministers confirmed to the House that Jo Moore had instructed a civil servant to brief the press against Bob Kiley, contrary to paragraph 6 of the code? Was that a breach of contract? If not, why not? Would severance pay be payable if it was?

Mrs. Roche

The terms and conditions in the model contract go into an individual's terms and conditions of employment. That is the rule in employment law.

As far as I am aware, no official complaint has been made. If a complaint were made, it would be investigated.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Will the Minister confirm for the record that it was the Prime Minister who personally decided to retain Jo Moore in office last autumn? If he did, will the Minister confirm that he, not the taxpayer, will be paying any lump sum that is paid to Jo Moore?

Mrs. Roche

I refer the hon. Gentleman to what the Prime Minister said on 17 October during Prime Minister's Question Time: First, I do not defend in any shape or form what Jo Moore said, which was horrible, wrong and stupid. I do, however, defend the decision that to sack someone and end their career was too heavy a penalty. That was the decision taken. I supported it and regard the matter as closed."—[Official Report, 17 October 2001; Vol. 372, c. 1165.] That is the way in which to deal with these affairs.