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Government Transparency and Accountability

Volume 718: debated on Friday 15 July 2022

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the public and the media to hold public bodies to account.

Such online transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.

The Government will continue to look at how the range of information published by the Government can be improved and made as useful as possible to the public, press and Parliament.

The following subject areas include documents and information on Government publications. Copies of associated documents can be found on gov.uk.

The Government have also undertaken a range of work in response to reports by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and Nigel Boardman, detailed below.

Ministerial transparency

Departments have published routine quarterly ministerial data on external meetings, gifts, hospitality and overseas travel.

Transparency on special advisers and senior officials

Special advisers are a critical part of the team supporting Ministers. They add a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers, while reinforcing the impartiality of the permanent civil service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support.

In line with legislation, each year the Cabinet Office lays in Parliament and publishes a list of special advisers and their costs. Today, the Cabinet Office will be laying in Parliament and publishing the list of special advisers in post as of 30 June, along with the annual cost of special advisers over the financial year 2021-22.

Departments have published quarterly data on gifts and hospitality received by special advisers, as well as information on special adviser meetings with senior media figures.

Routine quarterly data on hospitality, expenses and meetings of senior officials and on business appointment rules advice has also been published by Departments.

Ministerial guidance on commercial involvement

The Government commercial function will be publishing ministerial guidance on commercial involvement. A separate written ministerial statement on this will also be made. This sets out ministerial guidance through four stages of commercial activity, from before procurement starts to supplier and contract management post contract award. It also offers advice on how to maximise the value of ministerial involvement while maintaining the necessary safeguards.

Covid absence statistics

The Cabinet Office has been compiling cross-Government management information on absences due to covid-19 within the civil service since the start of the pandemic. The data includes sickness absences and special paid leave. In October 2021, we published the top level data on gov.uk. We have now completed the data collection and plan to add the final nine months of data to the existing publication. We will continue to collect sickness absence data related to covid-19 through our business as usual absence collection which we publish on an annual basis.

Government response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life and Nigel Boardman

The Government have been considering the “Standards Matter 2” report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, alongside Nigel Boardman's report on the use of supply chain finance in Government.

In relation to recommendations in both reports that the Government should improve their processes for ensuring compliance with conflicts of interest rules, on 24 June 2022 the Cabinet Office issued new guidance on the declaration and management of outside interests in the civil service.

Further work is underway to ensure senior officials within Government Departments are aware of their compliance responsibilities, and have access to relevant training and support on compliance issues.

The Government have also implemented Nigel Boardman’s recommendations on Government contracts and the use of supply chain finance in Government. The Government’s model services contact, reissued on 11 April 2022, includes new provisions covering suppliers’ potential conflicts of interest, while HM Treasury guidance on novel financing arrangements, issued on 18 March 2022, states that supply chain finance schemes require explicit approval and should rarely be used.

The “Statement of Government policy: Standards in public life”, published on 27 May 2022, detailed the Government’s reforms to the role and remit of the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests. In deciding on these reforms, the Government carefully considered the relevant recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Government are also taking action to improve the enforcement of the business appointment rules. Mechanisms are now in place for breaches of the rules to be taken into account in the award of honours. Agreement on a similar approach is being sought with the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission and the Government are now considering how to implement the same approach in relation to public appointments. Alongside this, the Government are considering consequences for prospective employers including through the procurement process.

Work on further reforms, including those proposed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and Nigel Boardman, continues and will be informed by the new Prime Minister.

This statement responds to the motion passed by the House on 7 June 2022, Official Report, Vol. 715, col. 728, and Ministers will undertake to further update the House in due course.

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