Embargo: 00:01 Monday 7 July 2008

Contact: Peter Hills-Jones 020 7219 2922


The House of Lords Communications Committee have today announced they will conduct an inquiry into whether the government communications system is open, impartial, efficient and relevant to the public.

The inquiry will focus specifically on the implementation of the reforms to government communications recommended by the Phillis Review in 2004.

The Phillis review put forward a series of recommendations for government communications activities and the Committee will explore how far those recommendations have been implemented. They will also consider whether the changes since 2004 have resulted in a more effective system of communication that underpins the principles that the review was based on.

The seven key principles for government communications set out in the Phillis review are:

  • Openness, not secrecy.
  • More direct, unmediated communications with the public.
  • Genuine engagement with the public as part of policy formation and delivery, not communication as an afterthought.
  • Positive presentation of government policies and achievements, not misleading spin.
  • Use of all relevant channels of communication, not excessive emphasis on national press and broadcasters.
  • Co-ordinated communication of issues that cut across departments, not conflicting or duplicated departmental messages.
  • Reinforcement of the Civil Service's political neutrality, rather than a blurring of government and party communications.

Commenting on the inquiry, Lord Fowler, Chairman of the House of Lords Communications Committee, said:

"We will investigate whether government communications have improved since the Phillis report of 2004. We would particularly welcome evidence from working journalists on how the system is working".

"We want to know if the culture of secrecy and partial disclosure has been changed. We will also examine the rules governing the conduct of special advisers and whether their role in relationship to civil servants is now clear. It is vital that the government communications system should be both open and impartial".

"An important part of our inquiry will concern regional communications. The Phillis committee recommended that a much greater effort should be made in communicating at the regional level. We will investigate whether this has taken place".

The inquiry will start with an evidence session on the 9 July with Sir Robert Phillis and Howell James, former Permanent Secretary for Government Communications. This will be followed by the second evidence session on the 16 July with Nick Robinson, Tom Bradby, Adam Boulton, Nigel Hawkes, Tim Marshall and Frank Gardner.

The full details of the Committee's first two evidence sessions are:

Wednesday 9 July


Sir Robert Phillis, Author of the Phillis Review and former Chief Executive of Guardian Media Group.


Howell James, Former Permanent Secretary for Government Communications (July 2004 - June 2008)

Alan Bishop, Chief Executive, Central Office of Information

Wednesday 16 July


Nick Robinson, Political Editor, BBC

Tom Bradby, Political Editor, ITV

Adam Boulton, Political Editor, Sky News


Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor, The Times

Tim Marshall, Foreign Affairs Editor, Sky News

Frank Gardner, Security Correspondent, BBC

Notes to Editors

  1. Details of the House of Lords Communications Committee and their inquiry into government communications, including the full Call for Evidence, can be found here:
  2. The deadline for the submission of written evidence is Monday 15 September 2008.
  3. For further information, please contact Owen Williams, House of Lords Press Officer on 020 7219 8659 or [email protected].
  4. An audio stream of the evidence sessions mentioned above will be broadcast live at: