Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Letter from Sir Richard Wilson (NC2)

  During my evidence session to the Committee on 1 November, I promised to provide some further information to the Committee.

  I was asked about the appointment of special advisers in the devolved administrations. Special advisers working to Ministers in the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales are members of the Home Civil Service and their appointment is therefore a reserved matter. In the absence of a special provision, therefore, the Prime Minister would be expected formally to approve their appointment as he does the appointment of special advisers to UK Ministers. In order to reflect the spirit of devolution, however, an amendment was made to the Civil Service Order in Council to allow Ministers in the devolved administrations to appoint a limited number of special advisers without the need to refer individual cases to the Prime Minister for approval.

  The Order in Council allows for up to 12 advisers in Scottish Parliament and up to six advisers in the National Assembly for Wales. So long as the devolved Administrations stay within the upper limit on numbers and the appointments are made in line with the terms of the Model Contract for Special Advisers, the Prime Minister would not expect to become involved in the appointment process. I do not have a role in the appointment process. At 1 November, there were 11 special advisers working to Ministers in the Scottish Parliament and five working to Ministers in the National Assembly for Wales.

  The Committee also asked for a note on the issue of disciplining special advisers. The position is as set out in my evidence to you on 1 November and by my predecessor to the Committee on 21 November 1997. Personnel management of the Civil Service is delegated from the Crown to the Minister and from the Minister to the Departmental Permanent Secretary except to the extent that it involves the use of resources, for which the Accounting Officer has to account to the Public Accounts Committee. The Minister can of course withdraw the delegation and exercise it himself if he so wishes.

  All special advisers are appointed under terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract for Special Advisers. Decisions on disciplining special advisers will be taken in accordance with the disciplinary procedures of the employing Department set out in Departmental Staff Handbooks in consultation with the appointing Minister.

  I was also asked what training we were planning to "build in delivery" and offered to provide some information. Attached as an annex is a note on what the Centre for Management and Policy Studies are doing in this area.

  I was grateful to the Select Committee for spotting an error in the organisation chart for the Cabinet Office which we sent to you. It is now shown correctly on the Cabinet Office site on the Internet. I will be sending you separately the organisation chart for No 10.

  Responses from the Government to the three Committee reports where we promised a reply have now been sent to the Committee.

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