Government Communications - Communications Committee Contents


139.We appreciate that in the case of market sensitive information, or certain EU-wide announcements, it may not be practical or possible to inform Parliament first. In such cases, we recommend the Government should commit to return to Parliament at the earliest opportunity in order to give an account of developments.
140.We recommend that the Prime Minister draw all Ministers' attention to the guidance in the Ministerial Code that the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance to Parliament. Ministers should be reminded that trailing the content of announcements is incompatible with the Ministerial Code and the guidance of the Speaker of the House of Commons. This should be repeated at the start of every new Parliament.
141.The Prime Minister should also issue clear instructions to all Ministers, and their staff, that new information should always be provided on a fair and equal basis to all interested journalists. This instruction, too, should be repeated at the start of every new Parliament.
142.We propose that, as a first step, the morning briefing, which is already open to all journalists, should be live on the Number 10 website. If television or radio broadcasters wished to use clips from that footage they could do so.
143.We recommend that the Leader of the House of Commons should reinstate a weekly briefing on parliamentary business.
144.We recommend that all Government press conferences should be as open as possible and that all major press conferences should be live on the internet so that they are open for anyone to listen to.
145.We believe it is of key importance that Ministers make clear at all times that special advisers must follow the guidance available and stay within the limits set down. As well as sending the guidance to all new special advisers, we believe it is imperative that the guidance is brought to the attention of all new Ministers.
146.We recommend that where possible the careers of high-flying civil servants should include a period of service in departmental press offices or communications generally. The Permanent Secretary, Government Communications (in line with his existing responsibility to develop professional standards and spread best practice) should oversee the implementation of this reform, in consultation with the Permanent Secretaries of each department.
147.We recommend that the Chief Executive of the Central Office of Information should take the lead in improving standards. Special attention should be paid to the training and guidance available to regional press officers to ensure that they have a better understanding of regional and local media. They should tailor regional press releases; become more pro-active in their engagement with the local and regional media; and make more senior officials and Ministers available for interviews about the local impact of polices.
148.We recommend that Government information should always be available and accessible to as many people as possible. In particular, the Government must be clear about its target audiences in communicating information and use the most appropriate method.
149.We recommend that Government departments should consult the voluntary sector about appropriate delivery mechanisms at an early stage when planning new information campaigns or revising old guidance.
150.We recommend that the Office of the Third Sector and the GCN, both of which are based in the Cabinet Office, should develop guidance for all departments on working with and consulting voluntary-sector organisations, in order to ensure the public can get help in accessing reliable, up-to-date information from well-informed sources. There is a similar case to be made for the importance of local government and other stakeholder consultations being held at an early stage.
151.  We recommend that the Cabinet Office should collate annual statistics on the costs of Government communications across departments. The Permanent Secretary should lead this reform. He should report annually to the Head of the Home Civil Service, and to Parliament, on the overall size, budget and effectiveness of Government communications.

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