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Special Advisers

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1997

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4.

What role his special advisers played during the referendum campaign in Wales. [12378]

My special advisers played an active role supporting my ministerial colleagues and me throughout the referendum campaign. Their wide-ranging duties included analysing policy, advising on presentational matters and liaising with Members of Parliament from my party and those in other parties and campaigning groups in Wales that supported the Government's policy. They were both pleased to be on the winning side.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman's account of the work of political advisers in the campaign be fuller if he drew attention to the fact that one of his special advisers telephoned Blaenau Gwent council, asking it to put pressure on the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith), saying that if he did not co-operate, access would be denied—or possibly even granted—to the right hon. Gentleman? Is not that attitude to constitutional propriety more reminiscent of the late Mr. Fawkes, whose happy demise we shall be celebrating today? Does the right hon. Gentleman have confidence in a verdict that gave him such a very small majority, obtained only through a massive expenditure of public money and by strong arming his hon. Friends?

I am afraid that the allegations to which the hon. Gentleman is referring are ancient history. Let me remind him that both my special advisers were properly employed in line with the Cabinet Office advice of 20 May. As I have said, they carried out a wide range of duties. The hon. Gentleman will be particularly interested to know that, on those occasions when it would have been unwise of me to use my car, my special advisers arranged taxis for me.