MP attacks Tory `gaffe' committee Civil Service Code under attack

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Indy Politics

Political Correspondent

The new Cabinet committee for "co-ordination and presentation of government policy" has been questioned as a possible misuse of public money by Giles Radice (Lab, Durham North).

The committee, chaired by David Hunt, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was announced by John Major on Tuesday after a series of apparent ministerial differences.

Mr Radice wrote last night to Sir Robin Butler, the secretary to the Cabinet and head of the Civil Service: "I understand that this committee is to be serviced by civil servants. It is hard to understand how civil servants can avoid being used for party political purposes. This would be totally against the spirit, not only of existing codes, but also of the proposed Civil Service Code which has been accepted by the government."

Under rules drawn up by Sir Robin's predecessor, Sir Robert Armstrong, civil servants are not allowed to assist ministers in party political activity. At the end of last year, the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee proposed the Code to tighten and clarify these rules. Mr Radice, who chaired the sub-committee which drew up the planned Code, said: "As this committee is described it looks probable that it breaches this Code."

The Code, which will be debated in the Commons today, sets out rules to preserve the "integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity" of the Civil Service.

Civil servants should behave in such a way as "to deserve and retain the confidence of ministers and to be able to establish the same relationship with those whom they may be required to serve in some future administration".