The Cabinet Office has released the new Ministerial Code, which sets out the over-arching duties which Government Ministers must abide by. Section 5.2 says;
Ministers have a duty to give fair consideration and due weight to informed and impartial advice from civil servants, as well as to other considerations and advice in reaching policy decisions, and should have regard to the Principles of Scientific Advice to Government.
The Principles were originally drafted by the science community in an attempt to clarify the relationship between expert advisers and Government Ministers, after the dismissal of Prof. David Nutt from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
They were redrafted by the Government to include a requirement that “Government and its advisers should not act to undermine mutual trust”. Scientists are concerned that a requirement for them to both trust and be trusted by Ministers is extremely hard to define, and therefore does not work to clarify their rights and position.
While the inclusion of ‘mutual trust’ in the Ministerial Code will raise concerns, the broader incorporation of the Principles into the Ministerial Code by the new Government may well be seen as a positive step.