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Departmental Update

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

The Minister of State, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, has today made the following statement:

I would like to update hon Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department in advance of Summer Recess.

Strengthening ethics and integrity in central government

The Government are announcing today a wide-ranging programme of reform to strengthen ethics and integrity in central Government.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has today laid in Parliament the Government full response to the Upholding Standards in Public Life report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the report by Nigel Boardman into the development and use of supply chain finance (and associated schemes) related to Greensill Capital in Government, and the propriety of governance in light of Greensill report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

This statement follows the reforms announced to the House in the written ministerial statement “Government Transparency and Accountability” of 15 July 2022, and concludes the Government obligations under the motion passed by the House on 7 June 2022, Official Report, column 728.

The Government are also accepting the three recommendations of Adam Heppinstall KC to review conflicts of interests guidance, consider advice on handling potential conflicts between candidates and Ministers, and consider whether changes are needed to the relevant section of the governance code on public appointments.

In addition to their response to these recommendations, the Government are also delivering further reforms to the business appointment rules beyond the scope of these reports, to both improve the experience for applicants and ensure a more consistent, risk-based approach. As part of this work, the Government will also be integrating into legally binding agreements its other obligations on former office-holders and employees, namely the Radcliffe Rules on books and memoirs, and the rules on the return of, and access to, papers from time in office.

These reforms to the Government’s ethics and integrity framework sit alongside the ongoing obligation on all office-holders to uphold their relevant codes of conduct, including the Civil Service Code, the Special Adviser Code of Conduct, the Ministerial Code, and the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies.

Government transparency and accountability

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

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 that the Government is due to publish.

Ministerial transparency

The Government will today be publishing the list of ministerial responsibilities on Copies will also be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses in Parliament. The list includes details of ministerial Departments, the Ministers within each Department, their portfolio responsibilities and private offices and the Executive agencies within each Department.

Departments will also be publishing routine transparency data on Ministers’ gifts, hospitality, overseas travel and external meetings for the period of January to March 2023. This data covers the returns for the Prime Minister, Government Chief Whip and the Leaders of the House of Commons and the Lords, as well as the Cabinet Office. Government previously published this data on 30 March, for the period of October to December 2022.

Transparency on special advisers

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.

Special advisers are temporary civil servants, and their costs are met by the Government Department in which they are based. Each year, the Cabinet Office publishes a report on the cost and number of special advisers across Government. Today, the Cabinet Office will be laying and publishing its report for the previous financial year, April 2022 to March 2023, which also contains a list of special advisers in post as of the end of the reporting period.

Departments will also be publishing routine quarterly data on special advisers' gifts, hospitality and meetings with senior media figures.

Transparency on senior civil servants

The Cabinet Office is also, today, publishing details of all Cabinet Office senior civil servants who hold outside employment for 2022-23, which is paid or otherwise remunerated, and has been approved in line with the requirements of 4.3.4 of the civil service management code.

Routine quarterly data on senior officials’ hospitality, expenses and meetings, along with business appointment rules advice, will also be published by Departments today.

Public appointments order in council

Yesterday, His Majesty the King’s Privy Council approved a refresh of the public appointments Order in Council, which lists the public bodies regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The order was last updated in 2019.

As well as amending the schedule to reflect newly created, renamed or dissolved regulated public bodies since its last update, the changes take account of the machinery of government departmental changes announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year, and make an addition to the commissioner’s remit of the appointment of non-executive directors to the boards of ministerial Departments, in line with the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s recommendations.