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Government Information Service

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Government Information Service. [18408]

I am today placing in the Library of the House the Report of a Working Group on the Government Information Service. The Report is about modernising the Government's communications with the media to make them more effective and authoritative—an integral part of a democratic Government's duty to govern with consent. Its main proposals are:

to improve co-ordination with and from the centre, so as to get across consistently the Government's key policy themes and messages, through a new strategic communications unit serving the whole Government; a reformed Cab-E-Net system; and clearer rules on attribution;
to improve co-ordination within each Government Department so that Ministers, their special advisers, their press offices and their policy civil servants all play their part in the coherent formulation and communication of policy;
to bring the practice and procedures of all Government press offices up to the standards of the best, geared to quick response round the clock with help from a new central media monitoring unit;
to retain a politically impartial service and to sustain the trusted values of the service embodied in its rules of guidance;
on the basis that communication is an integral part of policy formulation, to develop closer and better working relations between policy civil servants and press offices;
to offer high quality management and leadership, staffing and training and development tailored to meet the needs of the 24-hour media world.
I have accepted the recommendations of the Report. The costs of the two new Units will be contained within the Department's running costs. Together, these proposals will produce a service, renamed the Government Information Service and Communication Service, which is fit for its purpose and fit for the future.