Top mandarins add their weight to Better Government Initiative

Former senior civil servants criticise Labour's style of government under Tony Blair and call for more scrutiny and an end on reliance of political advisers
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Former senior mandarins and an influential group of six former permanent secretaries, including Lord Butler of Brockwell, the former cabinet secretary, and Sir John Chilcot, who is currently chairing the Iraq War inquiry, have put their name to The Better Government Initiative report published today which calls for an end the government's reliance on political advisers to develop policy, bypassing experienced civil servants.

The report is also backed by other former permanent secretaries Sir Richard Mottram, Sir David Omand, Sir Nicholas Monck and Sir Geoffrey Chipperfield.

The charity's study, Good Government: Reforming Parliament and the Executive, criticises Labour's informal style of policy making which emerged under Tony Blair and calls for a more formal way of governance.

Recommendations include a new Parliamentary Resolution to set out in writing how laws should be vetted thoroughly by Parliament. MPs and the media would be expected to hold the government to account if ministers abused it.

It also calls for an explicit Cabinet code of conduct, monitored by the cabinet secretary, to ensure that the entire Cabinet is consulted when important policy are being agreed.

The report also recommend that ministers should be made more accountable to MPs by strengthening the role of Parliament in scrutinising the government's work.

Sir Christopher Foster, the chairman of the Initiative, expressed his concerns about ministers use of special advisers to develop policy at the same hearing.

He criticised a "tendency for some ministers to engage in policy-making with their political and media advisers while leaving subsequent implementation to their civil service and other public servants".

Last week a separate report from the independent Institute for Government, based on evidence from 60 Whitehall figures, said there was no "single coherent strategy" and urged reforms.

The independent charity warned that ministries are not "coordinated as effectively as they should be". But the Cabinet Office said government departments work closely together.

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