» Thursday, March 25, 2004

Government Communications/New Appointments

The PMOS drew journalists’ attention to a press notice today announcing the appointment of Howell James as for Government Communications. The new post was the result of a recommendation in the Phillis review, which had been set up in response to the Public Administration Select Committee report following events at the Department of Transport. The Permanent Secretary would be responsible for the strategy, co-ordination and effectiveness of Government communication across Whitehall. He would also be Head of Profession, responsible for increasing the professionalism and capability of Government communications. He would be a permanent civil servant and would report to the Head of the Home Civil Service, Sir Andrew Turnbull. He would work closely with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Cabinet Office to ensure that a co-ordinated and strategic approach was taken to communications across Government. The PMOS underlined that Howell James had been appointed through open competition by a Selection Panel. The panel, chaired by Baroness Usha Prashar, the Independent First Civil Service Commissioner, and including Sir Andrew Turnbull, had made a unanimous recommendation, which subsequently had been accepted by the Prime Minister. The PMOS said that Mr James was joining Government with a wealth of experience in communications, both in a FTSE 100 company, in a public service organisation – the BBC, within Government itself and as a partner in a private company. He was someone who was a very talented communicator who would bring considerable energy and focus to this important post.

The PMOS (Godric Smith) took the opportunity to advise journalists that he would be leaving his post after Easter and would take on a new role in Downing Street as Head of Strategic Communications looking at some of the longer term issues across Government. His colleague (Tom Kelly) would continue as PMOS and would carry out the twice-daily briefings from Monday to Thursday. They would both continue to be of equal status, but would be doing different jobs. The Chief Press Officer would brief journalists on Fridays. He added that Darren Murphy was joining the Communications Directorate as a Special Adviser. Asked about his new role, the PMOS said he recognised that if you were tired of briefing the Lobby you were tired of life, but it would enable more focus to be put on medium and longer term communication.

Put to him that the new Permanent Secretary post was simply a glorified spin doctorship rather than a civil service job, the PMOS disagreed. He said that Mr James was joining the Civil Service as a Permanent Secretary. He had been appointed for the qualities and talents which he would bring to the post and his wide experience of communications across a whole range of different organisations. Put to him that the Selection Panel ought perhaps to have brought a ‘Civil Service mind to bear’ on the issues identified in the Phillis review, rather than bring in someone with a background in communications, the PMOS said that having an open competition meant that people from a variety of backgrounds had applied. That was a good thing. The judgement which had been taken unanimously by the Selection Panel was that Mr James was clearly best suited to the post. The PMOS said that personally he didn’t know Mr James well, but had worked in Downing Street at the same time as him some years ago and he was clearly a talented communicator and someone with a lot of energy and ideas. Everyone recognised that there were things which could be done better in terms of how we communicated as a Government through the Civil Service. Asked for details about Mr James’ salary, the PMOS said that he was unable to give a specific figure. It would be set by agreement with the Permanent Secretaries Remuneration Committee and would be in the range of £121,00 to £203,000. Asked if Downing Street’s Director of Communications, David Hill, would be answerable to Mr James, the PMOS referred journalists to the Phillis Report which had given details about the separation of roles. Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about Mr James’ links to the Hinduja brothers, the PMOS said that he hadn’t heard anyone express any such concern.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Post a public comment

(You must give an email address, but it will not be displayed to the public.)
(You may give your website, and it will be displayed to the public.)


This is not a way of contacting the Prime Minister. If you would like to contact the Prime Minister, go to the 10 Downing Street official site.

Privacy note: Shortly after posting, your name and comment will be displayed on the site. This means that people searching for your name on the Internet will be able to find and read your comment.

Downing Street Says...

The unofficial site which lets you comment on the UK Prime Minister's official briefings. About us...


March 2004
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Feb   Apr »

Supported by


Disruptive Proactivity

Recent Briefings



Syndicate (RSS/XML)



Contact Sam Smith.

This site is powered by WordPress. Theme by Jag Singh