APPENDIX 3: CALL FOR EVIDENCE
The implementation of the Phillis Review of government
The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications
is announcing today an inquiry into the implementation of Sir Bob
Phillis' 2004 review of government communications. The Independent
Review of Government Communications, chaired by Bob Phillis, was
published in January 2004. It is available at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/communications_review.aspx.
This will be a relatively short inquiry focusing
on whether the recommendations were adopted by the Government
and whether the changes that have been made effectively underpin
the principles that the review was based on.
The Committee would welcome evidence on the following
Has the implementation of the reforms of government
communications since the Phillis Review resulted in a more effective
system of communication and underpinned the principles set out
in the report?
The principles set out in the Phillis Review are:
- Openness, not secrecy.
- More direct, unmediated communications with the
- Genuine engagement with the public as part of
policy formation and delivery, not communication as an afterthought.
- Positive presentation of government policies
and achievements, not misleading spin.
- Use of all relevant channels of communication,
not excessive emphasis on national press and broadcasters.
- Co-ordinated communication of issues that cut
across departments, not conflicting or duplicated departmental
- Reinforcement of the Civil Service's political
neutrality, rather than a blurring of government and party communications.
Summary of Phillis Review Recommendations
The twelve main recommendations of the Phillis Review
are listed for the information of those responding:
(1) A redefinition of the role and scope
of government communications
"Our central recommendation is that communications
should be redefined across government to mean a continuous dialogue
with all interested parties, encompassing a broader range of skills
and techniques than those associated with media relations. The
focus of attention should be the general public" (page 12).
(2) A strong central communications structure
"We have recommended, and the government
has already accepted, a new structure, led by a new Permanent
Secretary, Government Communications who will be Head of Profession,
provide strategic leadership for communications across government
and build a new and authoritative communications service within
government. The Prime Minister's Senior Official Spokesperson
will report to the Permanent Secretary, Government Communications,
and will work alongside the Prime Minister's Director of Communication"
(3) Strong, integrated departmental communications
"We found inconsistencies between departments
on the significance attached to the communications function. We
recommend that, led by the Director of Communication, each department's
communications activity must clearly contribute to the achievement
of the department's overall policy aims and objectives" (page
(4) Disband the Government Information
and Communication Service (GICS)
"We found structural and systems weaknesses
that diminished the work of many able staff within GICS. These
weaknesses made GICS no longer fit for purpose. We recommend that
the government adopt a new approach and structures, replacing
the existing network with a wider definition of communications
professionals encompassing all those involved in communication
activity and led by the new Permanent Secretary, Government Communications"
(5) Greater emphasis on regional communication
"Research told us the public want information
that is more relevant to them and where they live. We recommend
that more investment should be made in communicating at a local
and regional level and more communication activity should be devolved
into relevant regional government or public service units"
(6) Recruitment and training to raise professional
standards and maintain Civil Service impartiality
"We found inconsistency in recruitment and
inequality in training opportunities. We recommend that all communication
specialists should be recruited to the same high standards. All
those involved in communications should have training that allows
them to perform in a professional and effective manner. Ministers
should not be involved in the selection process for communications
professionals during open, external competitions" (page 19).
(7) New rules governing the conduct of
special advisers and defining more clearly the boundaries with
the Civil Service
"We accept the role of special advisers
but found a lack of clarity in their relationship with civil servants.
We recommend that new propriety guidelines and induction training
should be developed by the Permanent Secretary, Government Communications
to cover all those involved in communication, including special
advisers. The principle of Civil Service impartiality must underpin
these guidelines" (page 21).
(8) Effective implementation of the Freedom
of Information Act 2000
"We found a culture of secrecy and partial
disclosure of information which is at the root of many of the
problems we have examined. We recommend that, when implementing
the main provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the overriding
presumption should be to disclose" (page 23).
(9) Clearer rules for the release of statistical
"We found cases of selective release of
information and lack of clear timetables as to when information
was to be released. We recommend that core central government
statistical information should be automatically, routinely and
systematically made available, with schedules published in advance
and strictly observed. There should be a new statute to define
a clear remit for the National Statistician and the Statistics
Commission" (page 24).
(10) A new approach to briefing the media
"We found that the lobby system is no longer
working effectively for either the government or the media. We
recommend that all major government media briefings should be
on the record, live on television and radio, and with full transcripts
available promptly online. Ministers should deliver announcements
and briefings relevant to their department at the daily lobby
briefings, which should also be televised, and respond to questions
of the day on behalf of the government" (page 25).
(11)Customer-driven online communication
"We found that, although significant resources
are being devoted to government websites, the impact has been
diluted by a lack of integration within departments and across
government. We recommend that the central government website should
be redesigned to meet the needs and perceptions of users, with
individual departments only becoming "visible" when
this makes sense to the users. Information on local public services
should be prominent and easily found. There should be increased
investment in websites to reflect the increasing importance of
this method of communication" (page 26).
(12) A reappraisal of the relationship between
politicians and the media
"We found a three-way breakdown of trust
between politicians, the media and the general public. We recommend
that politicians and the media should consider the extent to which
their behaviour might support or undermine the objective of these
recommendationsto help restore public trust in legitimate
government communication" (page 26).
7 July 2008