William Hague forced to defend 'unqualified' special adviser

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Indy Politics

William Hague was forced yesterday to defend his decision to employ a 25-year-old man as his special adviser at the Foreign Office.

The appointment of Chris Myers as the Foreign Secretary's third special adviser has raised questions because David Cameron has been seeking to restrict the number of advisers employed at public expense as an economy measure, and because Mr Myers has no known qualifications for the job, other than he has worked as a driver and constituency aide for Mr Hague.

Yesterday, Mr Hague's spokesman said: "Any suggestion that the Foreign Secretary's relationship with Chris Myers is anything other than a purely professional one is wholly inaccurate and unfounded."

The news that Mr Myers had been appointed, on a salary reported to be £30,000 a year, coincided with fears that the Foreign Office was to cut back its annual report on human rights around the world, as Mr Hague, like other department heads, is under pressure to find ways to cut his budget by between 25 and 40 per cent.

Paul Staines, a libertarian campaigner who blogs under the pseudonym Guido Fawkes, has submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests asking about the circumstances of Mr Myers's appointment. Mr Hague already had two highly regarded special advisers before Mr Myers was taken on – his chief-of-staff, Arminka Helic, who fled Bosnia during the civil war there, and researcher Denzil Davidson, who has worked with him for five years. A third adviser, Chloe Dalton, has been drafted into the Foreign Office, but as a civil servant rather than a special adviser.

The Labour foreign secretaries, David Miliband and Jack Straw, each had two special advisers, but the Tories defended Mr Hague's decision to have three on the grounds that he has more duties. As well as being Foreign Secretary he has the title of First Secretary, which Lord Mandelson had during the final days of the Labour government.