Govt pledges ethics adviser appointment

The Government has pledged to appoint an ethics adviser in a bid to better define the boundaries between special advisers, ministers and civil servants.

The pledge, which aims to help resolve issues such as conflicts of interest within government, was included in the Government's response to the latest report by standards watchdog, the Committee of Standards in Public Life.

A Civil Service Act has also been promised although no timetable has been set.

IPR head of policy Nigel O’Connor said the institute ‘generally welcomed’ the commitment to a civil service act, but stressed it was important the Government made clear its commitment ‘bymaking it a priority in the

legislative timetable’.

The committee, chaired by Sir Nigel Wicks, was seeking to address issues raised following the Jo Moore affair, in which the former special adviser sought to ‘bury bad news’ in the aftermath of 9/11.

As reported last week on www.prweek.com (12 September), the Government responsed by backing calls by the committee to appoint the UK's first Civil Service Commissioner, and for a new section to the code of conduct for special advisers to clarify their role in government.

However, Wicks said it was a ‘seriously missed opportunity to enhance public trust in the processes of government.

He was notably critical of the Government’s refusal to curb the executive powers of civil servants retained by the PM’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell.

Meanwhile, former BBC political journalist Nicholas Jones last week called for reforms in the way government information is communicated to the media. At a Hansard Society meeting, he called for the Government to set new standards in the simultaneous release of information, particularly in respect of the Sunday papers.

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