Examination of Witness (Questions 420-439)|
THURSDAY 14 MARCH 2002
420. You have personal experience of this. I
am not sure I can find his answer in time but he said 80 is okay,
800 is not okay. You must have some idea of what an appropriate
figure would be? Is it one per Minister?
(Sir Richard Wilson) Two per Minister is the one that
we have traditionally had and I think that is actually quite good.
421. Two per Cabinet Minister.
(Sir Richard Wilson) At the moment it is two per Minister
who attends Cabinet, if I may just be technical. There are one
or two Ministers who are not members of Cabinet but who attend
422. That is the sort of figure that you would
like to see it capped at roughly?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I think that is the sort of figure,
yes. I am not going to discuss how you express the cap but that
is where I would do it. I am not sure I have got a Government
policy on it.
Mr Trend: That is extremely helpful.
423. Can I just have an interjection. Knowing
Parliament as you do and knowing the atmosphere in which special
advisers are these days discussed, are you suggesting to us that
Parliament, this place, people like us, is going to have a civilised
non partisan discussion about putting a cap on special advisers?
(Sir Richard Wilson) Chairman, I do not think I have
been slow in trying to give you full and honest replies. When
it comes to inviting me to comment on Parliament's performance,
I must ask you to excuse me.
424. You attributed a particular importance
to Parliament in this process and I just wondered if you really
understood how this place operated?
(Sir Richard Wilson) The answer to that is certainly
not. Can I just say, sorry, I do not want you to take it that
I am proposing a particular form of cap because I think that is
for discussion. I had been thinking of it more like the cap on
Scotland and Wales at the moment, the Scottish Executive and the
Welsh Assembly, which is expressed as a total number and then
it would be for the Prime Minister to decide.
425. It is just a round figure.
(Sir Richard Wilson) I am not going to speculate about
round figures. At the moment it is about 80.
426. Just for a second I thought you were.
(Sir Richard Wilson) No, I am withdrawing any speculation
about it. What I am simply saying to you is that for a Departmental
Cabinet Minister to have two, experience suggests that has worked
quite well. I am not going to go further than that.
427. Can I try and tease out whether or not
you have a personal view about the Orders in Council on Civil
Servants of which there are two, or there could be more. Again,
your distinguished predecessor felt that this was perhaps not
the happiest experiment and perhaps needed looking at again or
something like that. Do you have a feeling about this?
(Sir Richard Wilson) The irony was that when those
powers were introduced what my predecessor was doing was trying
to bring the formal position into line with what had actually
been happening, I think. I would prefer to discuss what it is
that special advisers can and cannot do in particular cases rather
than get too hung up on the particular formulation we have at
428. He felt that informally ". . . They
had no authority over or responsibility for career civil servants,
and career civil servants had no authority over them. These lines
have been blurred under New Labour", that is what he said.
(Sir Richard Wilson) Who said that?
429. That is in The Spectator article.
(Sir Richard Wilson) This is Robert Armstrong?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I think the model contract lists
a number of things that special advisers can do and I think we
are now developing new ways of working alongside special advisers
in Number 10. Again, if I may commend to you the Wicks document,
that is the sort of issue that the Wicks document is drawing attention
to and I think that is the kind of debate we are going to have
431. Would you recommend an extension of the
system whereby special advisers become civil servants under an
Order in Council?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I am not going to go further
into what the Government's policy would be than I have done so
432. Just to be clear on your previous answers.
It would be a fairly good bet, would it not, that if this much
trailed speech the week after next, no, no, much anticipated speech
the week after next
(Sir Richard Wilson) Can I say something about that?
I am going to rise as usual to your teasing.
433. I have said nothing wrong so far.
(Sir Richard Wilson) I have not trailed it. This is
the first time I have mentioned it. Others have mentioned it.
434. We are all salivating over the prospect
of it. The only thing I am trying to arrive at is presumably in
this speech the week after next you will be saying something more
about the development of non nuclear grievance procedures, conventional
(Sir Richard Wilson) If that is what you want me to
do, I shall address that.
435. Can I turn back to Alan Evans and his move
has been career development and so on.
(Sir Richard Wilson) Yes.
436. Sir Richard Mottram told the Committee
in the last few months ten press officers out of 30 have moved
from the DTLR. Surely you can see that is a lot of career development?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I was saying earlier, these are
people who are much in demand. They are quite ambitious. They
want to get experience across Whitehall. It does depend on the
period over which they have moved.
437. He said over a few months.
(Sir Richard Wilson) He said over a few months, did
he? I think honestly these are the things you should ask him about
rather than me. I am not that surprised that these things go in
cycles. My experience when I dealt with personnel was that these
things all tended, rather like number 11 buses, to go in clumps.
438. You would think it would be normal in other
Departments to have the same situation?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I have not got any evidence on
which I can quote you on that.
439. The other thing you mentioned was the Sixsmith
(Sir Richard Wilson) Yes.