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SpAds need support, says Essex MP.
9:45am Monday 15th October 2012 in News
SPECIAL advisors to Government ministers should be given more training and support, a committee led by an Essex MP has found.
The Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC), says special advisors, or SpAds, should also be “men and women of standing and experience” with a legitimate and valuable function to play.
These credentials would prevent future problems and misunderstandings about their role and conduct.
The committee is chaired by North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin.
He said: “We have seen special advisers sacked for being the focus of potential scandal; for a past which caught up with them; for being wholly underqualified; and taking the rap for failing to understand the limits of their role, which should have been explained to them. All this is avoidable.”
“The positive effect of special advisers is heavily dependent on a high degree of trust between them, their Ministers and their Permanent Secretaries, so there must be clarity of expectations about tasks and boundaries. Positive induction and support will be so much more effective than negative rules and enforcement.”
PASC says that special advisers’ roles protects the impartiality of the Civil Service, by performing tasks which it would be inappropriate for permanent, impartial officials to perform, and help to ensure that the Government’s policy objectives are delivered.
But it says ministers must be able to justify that the tasks they undertake are in the public interest.
Mr Jenkin added a key question was about whether paying special advisors from the public purse can be justified, given what is expected of them.
He added: “They have an entirely legitimate role in helping coordinate policy across Government, but lines of accountability must be clear or they will not have the confidence to contribute effectively. Where trust breaks down between special advisers and officials, ministers must address this, or leadership in Government will suffer.”