Tuesday 18 October 2011

Fox's response

This is Liam Fox's response to the report. Is it just me or can Fox not even bring himself to say Werritty's name in that second paragraph. Referring instead to "anyone other than Minsters and Officials".

“I am pleased that the report makes clear that the two most serious allegations, namely of any financial gain sought, expected or received by myself and any breach of national security, have no basis. As I said in the House of Commons last week, I accept that it was a mistake to allow the distinctions between government and private roles to become blurred, and I must take my share of the responsibility for this.

“More care should have been taken to avoid the impression that anyone other than Minsters and Officials were speaking on behalf of the Government, as this was not the case. Although there were no actual conflicts of interest I acknowledge that in order to avoid any possible perception of this, all private interests should have been fully declared to the Permanent Secretary.

“I welcome the recommendations in this report which will provide greater clarity for Ministers, officials and private individuals in the future.”

GoD's plan to avoid another Fox affair

At the end of what is a pretty tame report from Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell on Liam Fox's behaviour, thease were his recommendations...

a. Where discussions take place with external organisations which raise substantive issues relating to departmental decisions or contracts and where an official is not present Ministers should inform their department.

b. On Ministerial visits, whether in the UK or abroad, departments should make sure there is no confusion about who is and is not a member of the Ministerial party.

c. Officials should accompany Ministers to all official visits and meetings overseas at which it is expected that official matters may be raised, and should seek guidance from the FCO if there is any uncertainty about the status of such meetings or the attendance of non-officials at them.

d. Permanent Secretaries should discuss with Ministers at the time of their appointment and regularly thereafter whether any acquaintances or advisers have contractual relationships with the department or are involved in policy development. The Minister and the Permanent Secretary should take action as necessary to ensure there can be no actual or perceived conflict of interest in line with the principles of the Ministerial Code.

e. Permanent Secretaries should take responsibility for ensuring departmental procedures are followed, and for raising any concerns with Ministers, advising the Cabinet Secretary and ultimately the Prime Minister where such concerns are not resolved.

More civil servants at MoJ

The budget at the Ministry of Justice is being slashed back at the moment, with legal aid and prison spaces as two of the more high profile victims.

So it is interesting to see that the amount of money the MoJ is spending on hiring civil servants to deal with procurement is going up.

In 2009/10 the MoJ spent £7.7m, in 2010/11 they spent £8.8m, and in 2011/12 they are estimating that they’ll spend some £10.6m – a £3m odd increase over three years.

The figures, which will go down well with Ken Clarke’s insatiable critics, came from a written question here.

Monday 17 October 2011

Pensions motion

After the hoo-ha over MPs’ expenses politicians made a big deal of the fact that the issue of remuneration had been pushed out to an independent body.

So it wasn’t without a touch of irony when the Government, out of political expediency, asked Parliament to reject a pay-rise proposed by that independent body earlier this year.

Having got a taste for meddling, the Government has tabled a rather contradictory motion on MPs’ pensions today.

It starts saying that the Commons, “reasserts its view that the salaries, pensions and expenses scheme for hon. Members ought to be determined independently of this House”.

The motion notes that the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission has recommended a rise and then, without shame, says that the Commons should, “[invite] IPSA to increase contribution rates for hon. Members from 1 April 2012 in line with changes in pension contribution rates for other public service schemes”.

Should it? If these things are to be done independently surely Commons shouldn’t be taking any view at all, something which the amendment proposed by MPs Christopher Chope and Bill Esterson among others appears to grasp.