Tories call for ban on advisers in top posts

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Indy Politics

The Tories would ban the appointment of party political advisers such as Alastair Campbell to top government posts under plans to "clean up" government announced yesterday.

Under a special order approved by the Privy Council, Mr Campbell and Jonathan Powell, the Downing Street chief of staff, are allowed to give orders to civil servants. The Tories would bring in a Civil Service Bill to scrap this system.

The Opposition's 10-point plan aims to restore three traditional principles of the Civil Service: impartiality, independence and excellence. It pledged to end the "culture of bullying and victimisation" exposed by the Jo Moore affair at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

Tim Collins, shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: "We would sort out the vipers' nest of over-powerful special advisers. Although the Jo Moore saga is clearly the worst example of problems with the relationship between special advisers and ministers, it's clearly not the only example. There need to be statutory limits on what special advisers can do."

The number of special advisers would be cut by 25 per cent if the Tories won the election. Under Labour, their numbers have risen from 38 to 81.

Mr Collins said the Opposition's plans would end the "conflict of interest" inherent in the role of Mr Powell in the Mittal affair. The Tories claim that, because he helped raise money for Labour in opposition, he should not be Mr Blair's "gatekeeper" in government.

Under the Tory blueprint, all official meetings involving ministers or senior civil servants would be recorded. The Tories would consider giving a commissioner full access to party and government papers to check that party donations did not influence policy decisions.

The proposals also include a cull of "unaccountable czars and policy units", and televising Downing Street press briefings.