Select Committee on Public Administration Fourth Report

Annex 2

Letter from Sir Richard Wilson, KCB of 4 August 2000 about the role of special advisers

I have seen your letter of 17 July to Jonathan Powell, inviting him to give evidence as part of the Committee's inquiry into the role of special advisers. Mr Powell has consulted the Prime Minister who has asked me to reply to you.

The convention is that civil servants account to Parliament on behalf of their Ministers. They have no formal accountability of their own to Parliament (unless they are Accounting Officers) and they do not give evidence on their own behalf. The Government does not therefore consider it appropriate for Jonathan Powell or any other special adviser to give evidence essentially about themselves and their own role, particularly alongside Lord Blackwell who as former civil servant will only be able to provide evidence in a private and personal capacity.

The Prime Minister has therefore asked me to say that he would wish me to give evidence instead of Jonathan Powell and any other serving special adviser whom the Committee may wish to invite, and to answer any questions which the Committee may have on the government's policy on the role of special advisers including the exceptional status of Jonathan Powell and Alastair Campbell. You may wish to add this to the items for the hearing arranged for 1 November which already includes special adviser issues. If there are specific additional areas in relation to special advisers which the Committee would like to address, it would of course be helpful if you could give me a broad indication beforehand of what they are.

Sir Richard Wilson, KCB
4 August 2000

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