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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): No, my Lords. The business appointment rules apply to special advisers in the same way as they do to other civil servants. The imposition of a waiting period or any other condition depends on the circumstances of each individual case.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his reply. However, on departure from their jobs working for Ministers, are special advisers subject to the same rules and periods of quarantine as those which apply to senior civil servants, advice being sought in the individual cases from the Business Appointments Committee of which I was a member for its first eight years?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the answer is that they are subject to the same rules. That arose as a result of recommendations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan--who I am happy to see is present--which were accepted by the Government and also by the previous government. However, in effect, they only began to bite in substance after this Government came to power because there were existing contracts. There is one material difference; namely, when a special adviser has to make an application, which is considered on a case-by-case basis, the ultimate decision-maker will not be the Minister but the permanent head of the department in which the special adviser worked. That is a sensible and fair safeguard. It means that special advisers are subject to consideration that is just as rigorous as that which applies to senior civil servants, but at the same time they do not have that security of employment.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, will the Minister remind all special advisers that they must cease political activity as from next week if their Ministers are involved in the Scottish and Welsh elections?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord confirm that there are three special advisers attached to the Scottish Office? What will happen to them after the creation of the Scottish Parliament? Will they be able to move seamlessly with
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as regards the period of time during the election, it is for special advisers to comply with the provisions that the noble Lord, Lord Monro, mentioned. As regards the period subsequent to that, if a person has continued to be a special adviser, for example to the Secretary of State for Scotland, if that Minister then becomes the First Minister, it will be possible for the special adviser to continue as special adviser to that person in that capacity. However, he or she must remember at all times that special advisers are civil servants and that what we want is a unified Civil Service.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is the press report correct that there are now as many as 69 special advisers working for Ministers and they seem to have become a new species which is not in danger of extinction?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I think that figure is about right. I am glad to say that they are not in danger of extinction. Before this Government came to power it was said that we wanted strong political leadership and special advisers play a part in that. The committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, considered the role of special advisers and was perfectly content that there was no abuse of the system.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, a special adviser is a species of adviser recognised by the Civil Service and given a contract--a copy of which has been placed in the Library--which permits a special adviser to be selected in a way other than under the normal Civil Service rules. As regards advisers, it is open to Ministers to take advice from whomsoever they wish.
Lord Chesham: My Lords, as we are talking about standard intervals of time, will the noble and learned Lord care to comment on a Question which I tabled for Written Answer dated 13th January, to which I have not received any response?
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, as special advisers are, I assume, political appointments, can the individuals continue in the Civil Service which is supposed to be apolitical when they leave their appointments as special advisers?
Lord Carter: My Lords, after the first debate today my noble friend Lady Amos will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on humanitarian assistance for Kosovo refugees.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, in the context of the Business statement that the noble Lord has just made, he will, of course, be aware that on Monday afternoon in the Statement on the European Summit commitments were given that we would have a Statement on the military situation in Kosovo before the Recess. The House will not know--although the noble Lord certainly does--that the Government have offered a Statement this evening to be taken at 10.30 p.m. In view of the fact that the House has been up until three o'clock in the morning for the past two days, the Opposition have decided not to accept that Statement. Apart from anything else, the business of the House would dictate that we would have to adjourn for some four or five hours, with all the attendant costs and problems that that would cause for the staff of the House.
Will the Government Chief Whip help us by offering to meet the commitment that was given on Monday afternoon by providing that the Minister for the Armed Forces in this House may come to the House between the debates today to give us a short address rather than a Statement about the military situation in Kosovo which would not necessarily cover the specific ground that is to be covered later in the evening by the Secretary of State? I am sure the House would welcome that way of dealing with the situation before the Recess. I hope that the noble Lord will consider that suggestion in a positive manner.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, from these Benches I add my support for the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. As the noble Lord said, it would not be possible for the Minister to repeat at 5.30 p.m. today a Statement to be made this evening. However, in the experience of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has always been willing to address the House. As we move into the Recess there is deep concern about the exposed position of British service personnel involved in the campaign. It would be a small but acceptable gesture for the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, to address the House at that time.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I am grateful to the two noble Lords for their comments. However, they have rather sprung this matter on me. The only Statement that I know about is, of course, the Commons' Statement to be made this evening. I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the Opposition parties for not asking for that Statement to be repeated late tonight. The Secretary of State will make a Statement this evening at 10 o'clock and it is therefore not possible to repeat that at four o'clock this afternoon, if noble Lords follow me. I shall make inquiries about the matter, but I am not sure that it will be possible to meet the noble Lords' request. I understand what the noble Lords are saying. As I say, I shall make
Lord Elton: My Lords, if the arrangements that the noble Lords have suggested cannot be achieved, will it be possible at least to have the Commons' Statement printed in the Lords' Hansard so that we shall know tomorrow what it said?
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to require the provision of information on the impact of European Community legislation. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.