Francis Maude, the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, reveals that special advisers have broken Whitehall rules by instructing civil servants to produce attacks on Conservatives.
"It is apparent that Labour has once again compromised the impartiality of the Civil Service and used the taxpayer-funded service for political attacks", he said.
Whitehall probity rules prohibit government resources being used for Party political purposes; that Special Advisers must not ask civil servants to act politically; and that Special Advisers should not act in ways that "might reasonably lead to the criticism that people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes".
Despite this, new information revealed by Freedom of Information requests shows:
- Treasury Special Advisers demanded material "ASAP" from civil servants to attack the launch of the Conservative Party's Quality of Life policy review.
- With no notice, they demanded immediate costings to smear Iain Duncan Smith's Breakthrough Britain report launched that morning.
- Costings on the Conservative Party's council tax freeze policy were demanded on 20 November 2009 - then to appear in the Labour Party's dossier on 4 January 2010. The work was commissioned at a time of economic turmoil – when Treasury Special Advisers should actually have been dealing with significant developments involving the OECD, CBI and the Bank of England.
Opposition costings are not new, yet none of these related to upcoming Parliamentary debates or consideration of the merits of policies that the government might want to adopt.
The First Division Association has warned that in the run up to an election campaign, "such exercises are an abuse of Civil Service resources provided by taxpayers, and threaten to subvert the political impartiality of the service".
The Conservatives have written to the Cabinet Secretary demanding an investigation, with a view to potential disciplinary proceedings against the Special Advisers.
Maude added: "Public confidence in Special Advisers was severely shaken by the Damian McBride incident and it is imperative that Special Advisers adhere to the Code of Conduct clearly set out for them"