Measures to curb the power of governmental special advisers have
been drafted by the Cabinet Office, in response to criticism of their
A code of conduct, to be published early this parliament, will see the
Government respond to recommendations by the Neill Committee on
Standards in Public Life by requiring advisers to sign stringent new
Terms of the agreement are likely to include guarantees on upholding the
political impartiality of the civil service.
However, the advisers themselves, who until now have been classed as
temporary civil servants, are exempt from this requirement to be
impartial at all times, allowing them to serve party lines despite the
public purse paying their salaries.
Concerns over civil servants being leaned on to put out pro-Labour lines
were widely believed to be behind senior PR personnel changes in 16 of
17 head of information posts in the first two years of the first Blair
Guidelines to accompany the code of conduct will define the
responsibilities of special advisers, as well as advise on acceptable
levels of contact with the media.
Under the proposals, special advisers will be personally accountable to
the Prime Minister, despite calls for an independent arbiter to oversee
However there are currently no plans to implement the Committee's other
recommendation that the number of advisers be limited by statute. The
number has doubled to 79 since Labour came to power in 1997.