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Thursday 25 June 2020

Penman calls for PACAC inquiry into role of SpAds

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Graham Martin

The FDA has called on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) to investigate the changing role of government Special Advisers (SpAds) under Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Chief of Staff Dominic Cummings.

As reported by the Guardian, Times and Mail, General Secretary Dave Penman has written to PACAC chair William Wragg, raising concerns over “a cadre of Special Advisers with little security of employment who are being directly managed by No 10 through the PM’s Chief of Staff”.

Penman’s letter cites examples of the changes to the role, including that since September 2019, SpAds have been required to sign new contracts stating that responsibility for their conduct and discipline is jointly held between their appointing Minister and the Chief of Staff. It also references the dismissal of Sonia Khan – then-Chancellor Sajid Javid’s SpAd, who is now being represented by the FDA – without her Minister’s prior knowledge, which Penman calls “frankly unparalleled”.

“Even without the concern over how this power over employment is being deployed, it is clear that there is a deliberate approach from No 10 to fundamentally change the nature of the role”. Penman asked: “If Special Advisers are no longer appointed to serve a single Minister, then how can the accountability and responsibility outlined in the Ministerial Code be enforced? … These changes clearly dilute the special relationship between Ministers and Special Advisers and create a series of constitutional contradictions.”

PACAC has agreed to look into Penman’s concerns.

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