Return to the dark: the continuing lack of transparency over spads

11th July 2013

The government released its response to the Public Administration Select Committee’s report on special advisers (spads) yesterday[1]. The more anorak-minded of us focused on Paragraph 8 where the government said something that is certainly misleading if not simply false:

“This Government has already significantly increased the transparency around all special advisers. The names and salary paybands of all special advisers are now published on a quarterly basis.”

Whilst the second sentence used to be true, nothing has been published since a report on 19 October 2012[2]. It is unclear why they would assert something to the contrary in an official publication.

It is only through relying on second-hand and unofficial sources that we are able to examine the number of spads, but it appears that about ten new spads have started working for the government who have not been named in any data release.

As this is about 10% of the total number who have worked for the Coalition at any point, this shows that the lack of clear data limits transparency and hampers data collection, whilst privileging those with pre-existing connections to the government (and frustrating researchers!).

Moreover, some of these spads have quite interesting backgrounds (e.g. the Lib Dem PPC who stood down to become a special adviser[3] or the Conservative spad assigned to a Minister of State who does not attend Cabinet[4]) and not all appointments have been noticed (even by bloggers who are normally quite watchful of these things, e.g. Guido Fawkes[5]).

Unfortunately, these secondary sources do not list information how much individual spads earn (or their collective pay bill), and thus that information will remain sadly in the dark until an eager MP asks a parliamentary question (as was normally the case until Tony Blair began releasing annual lists around 2003) or the government releases its next “eagerly” awaited list.

For those who are interested, information on the new spads is listed below:

Name

Minister

Department

Frith, Emily

Norman Lamb

Health

Gallagher, Will

Chris Grayling

Justice

Jones, Ed

Jeremy Hunt

Health

King, Nick

Maria Miller

DCMS

Masser, Alastair

Lord Hill

Leader of the Lords

O’Brien, Neil

George Osborne

Treasury

Parkinson, Stephen

Theresa May

Home Office

Rogers, Thea

George Osborne

Treasury

Talbot-Rice, Sam

Jeremy Hunt

Health

Wild, James

Michael Fallon

Business

Also, as far as our data shows, there are 89 spads in post (as of May-June 2013), a number which is certainly quite near the numbers reached during the New Labour governments.


About Max Goplerud
I am a student at the University of Oxford (Nuffield College). I am interested in European politics, broadly defined, and my current research looks at why individuals form new parties to contest Parliamentary elections.

4 Responses to Return to the dark: the continuing lack of transparency over spads

  1. Jonny says:

    Does Nick Seddon (late of the Reform think-tank) fall under the spad category? He was appointed in May 2013 to advise the Prime Minister on health policy.

    • mgoplerud1 says:

      Hi Jonny, according to the sources we use, he’s not listed as a spad. We try not to rely on newspaper or online sources exclusively as they have a tendency to call people ‘special advisers’ even if they actually aren’t.

  2. Pingback: Who are the Lib Dem spads? « Strange Thoughts Strange Thoughts

  3. Jonny says:

    Hello. Further to my previous comment, how do you define a SPAD? I ask because Nick Seddon is listed as a SPAD in the latest release of SPAD costs by No 10:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/253081/SPAD_list_Live_UPDATE.pdf

    Thanks!

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