Special adviser (UK)


A special adviser[1] (SpAD) is a temporary civil servant who advises and assists UK government ministers.[2] They differ from impartial civil servants in that they are political appointees.[2]

Special advisers are paid by the government and appointed under Section 15 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. There are four pay bands for special advisers.[3]

Background


Special advisers were first appointed from 1964 under the Harold Wilson's first Labour government to provide political advice to Ministers and have been subsequently utilised by all following governments.[4]

Code of conduct


Advisers are governed by a code of conduct which goes some way to defining their role and delineates relations with the permanent civil service, contact with the media and relationship with the governing party, inter alia:

the employment of special advisers adds a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers while reinforcing the political impartiality of the permanent Civil Service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support [...] Special advisers are employed to help Ministers on matters where the work of Government and the work of the Government Party overlap and where it would be inappropriate for permanent civil servants to become involved. They are an additional resource for the Minister providing assistance from a standpoint that is more politically committed and politically aware than would be available to a Minister from the permanent Civil Service.[5]

The rules for their appointment, and status in relation to ministers, are set out in the Ministerial Code.

Number and cost of special advisers


Number

There is no legal limit on the number of special advisers, although the current total is less than it was under Tony Blair. The government had previously accepted calls, made in 2000 by the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life, for such a legal cap. By 2002, however, the government had altered its position, saying in response to the Wicks Committee report on standards in public life that "the Government does not believe that the issue of special advisers can be considered as a numerical issue. The issue is about being transparent about accountability, roles and responsibilities and numbers".[6]

Cost

The total cost of special advisers in 2006–07 was £5.9 million,[7] which has since increased to £9.6 million for 2018–19.[2]

There are four pay bands for special advisers.[3]

Special adviser pay bands, December 2020
Name Pay band
PB4 £96,000 - £145,000
PB3 £73,000 - £102,000
PB2 £57,000 - £80,000
PB1 £40,500 - £60,500

Current Pay Band 4 special advisers


As of 31 March 2020, there were 101.7 full-time equivalent special advisers working for the government.[3]

As of December 2020, the following advisers were included in a government list of special advisers in Pay Band 4:[3]

Appointing minister Special adviser
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP Nikki Da Costa
Jack Doyle
David Frost
Alex Hickman
Clare King
Oliver Lewis
Sir Edward Lister
Munira Mirza
Dan Rosenfield
Allegra Stratton
Ben Warner
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP and The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP Liam Booth-Smith
Michael Webb

Lists of special advisers


The following is a list of previously released lists of special advisers:

Criticisms


Special advisers have sometimes been criticised for engaging in advocacy while still on the government payroll or switching directly between lobbying roles and the special adviser role.[8]

Being a special adviser has become a frequent career stage for young politicians, before being elected Members of Parliament, which has attracted criticism.[9]

In fiction


Fiction set within the Westminster village frequently includes characters that are special advisers, such as Frank Weisel in Yes Minister and Glen Cullen in The Thick of It at the ministerial level, and figures like Malcolm Tucker (also of The Thick of It) seen operating at the apex of power, often overriding or manipulating Prime Ministers and other world leaders.

See also


Footnotes


  1. While "advisor" is a normal spelling, most documents use "adviser"
  2. "Annual Report on Special Advisers 2019" (PDF). 20 December 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  3. "Annual Report on Special Advisers 2020" (PDF). 15 December 2020. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  4. Zoe Gruhn; Felicity Slater. "SPECIAL ADVISERS AND MINISTERIAL EFFECTIVENESS" (PDF). Institute for Government. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  5. "Code of Conduct for Special Advisers". Cabinet Office. 21 April 2009. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010.
  6. Oonagh Gay (16 April 2009). "House of Commons Library research note SN/PC/03813 - Special advisers" (PDF). House of Commons Library Parliament and Constitution Centre. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2009.
  7. Numbers and Cost of Special Advisers, written statement by Gordon Brown, 22 Nov 2007 : Column 147WS, Hansard
  8. "Adviser's move to lobby firm attacked". The Telegraph. London. 12 June 2002. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  9. "Special advisers". Red Star Research. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008.