Conflict of interest warning over ministerial department

- Advertisement -

The news follows concerns raised by one of the politicians now attached to the super-department, which has been allocated a £100 million budget and is part of States chief executive Charlie Parker’s multi-million-pound redesign of the civil service.

Environment Minister John Young said in a Scrutiny hearing last month that the GHE Department, which now incorporates the previous Environment, Infrastructure and Economic Development Departments, is effectively regulating itself in some areas.

He added that, despite these concerns having been raised at an early stage, no safeguards had yet been put in place.

‘It was obvious at any first look at the structure, that a structure that builds in a conflict between poacher and gamekeeper in terms of States activities and regulation of those same activities is unsatisfactory,’ Deputy Young said. ‘I think it probably breaches the Nolan principles of public life, and I have been told that these issues were pointed out to whoever it was that was designing the structure before, but nonetheless that is what has happened.’

However, a government spokeswoman, who said they do not comment on correspondence with the Attorney General, said that a ‘decision-making protocol’ has been designed to try to address these concerns until ministers have considered the matter further.

‘A decision-making protocol has been agreed within the Growth, Housing and Environment Department to ensure that the regulatory section of the department can operate effectively and independently of the many areas of government that it regulates,’ she said. ‘There will be no management conflict in respect of regulatory decisions when this protocol is followed. This issue is being considered further by the Council of Ministers as part of public-sector restructuring and reform.’

However, Deputy Young told the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, that conflicts may be harder to identify.

‘I think there is a risk of subtle pressure, particularly on regulatory decisions, planning decisions and so on being made, which is very unsatisfactory in the long term,’ he said.

The former Environment Minister Steve Luce added that the amalgamation of a number of departments into the single, much larger GHE Department is causing confusion because it has not been reflected by equivalent changes to ministerial positions.

The four ministers who are now attached to the GHE Department still reflect the old model (Economic Development Minister, Environment Minster, Housing Minister, Infrastructure Minister) with no overall minister in charge.

‘It is not a great surprise that people are looking around, a bit confused as to how it is supposed to operate,’ he said. ‘I could be wrong but I think ministers are still corporation soles [legally responsible] for their departments – that was proposed to change but the system hasn’t really changed.

‘For the system to work properly, you need a political representative who sits alongside a civil servant. For example, GHE has a director general [a civil servant in overall charge of the department], so you would have thought that you would need something like a Secretary of State for GHE, with various ministers beneath them.

‘But that hasn’t happened. The ministers in GHE are all still legally accountable for their individual responsibilities but are alongside a civil service that is working under a different way of operating.’

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.