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ROLE DEFINITIONS NEEDED TO GAIN TRUST

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Clarity is needed on the differing roles of special advisers and civil servants to enhance the public trust in gove...
Clarity is needed on the differing roles of special advisers and civil servants to enhance the public trust in government, Sir Nigel Wicks has said.

The chair of the committee on standards in public life was reporting after the problems caused by the Jo Moore affair following 11 September 2001.

Her infamous e-mail, sent as the terrorist attacks on the US unfolded, suggested it would be a good day to 'bury' bad news - such as a report on councillors' expenses.

It set off a chain of events leading to her resignation, that of Martin Sixsmith, the civil servant who headed the press office at the then DTLR, and eventually of local government secretary Stephen Byers.

The committee examined the wider issues raised by this example of the often difficult relationship between ministers, their special advisers and the permanent civil service.

It recommended setting out rules on what special advisers can and cannot do, and providing an upper limit on their number. The personal responsibility of each minister, including the prime minister, for their special advisers should also be made clear.

The report said parliamentary agreement should be required for the two special adviser posts in the prime minister's office with executive powers.

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