HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc145-6W
Mr. Peter Ainsworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the employment of secondees from commercial organisations to draft parliamentary answers; and if she will make a statement. [154600]

Alun Michael

Defra's Ministers see secondments and interchange as a key means of complementing the skills and experience of the Civil Service, drawing in expertise from such fields as business, local government and the voluntary sector as well as other Government Departments. This is assisting Defra's commitment to play its part in developing a modern, flexible, outward looking Civil Service that works in partnership with all sectors of society. Interchange is seen as a key tool in meeting this commitment. Defra continues to promote and encourage the interchange of personnel between the Department and a range of other organisations.

The term 'secondee' is used within the Civil Service in a more limited sense than the meaning used outside the Civil Service. In the Civil Service a secondee is a person who is 'borrowed' from an organisation outside the Civil Service for a period of between three months and three years (exceptionally five years), without affecting employment status. Great care is taken in setting up any secondment to ensure that conflicts of interest do not arise. During the secondment period the secondee would remain an employee of the parent organisation but would be expected to abide by the Defra staff handbook and the Official Secrets Act. At the end of the secondment the secondee would return to the parent organisation.

The duties performed day to day are a matter for the secondee's managers and may include drafting answers to parliamentary questions.