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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Spin bills continue to soar
John Prescott is breathalysed as part of a government drink drive campaign
The government advertises campaigns like drink driving
The government came under fire for trying to "bury the bad news of the cost of spin" as figures showed that Labour's advertising and marketing spending has soared by 146% since the party came to power.

Ministers spent a total of 272m in 2001-2, compared with 110m in 1997-8 - a rise of more than 160m, the Central Office of Information revealed.

And separate figures, disclosed as MPs left the House of Commons for their long summer recess, showed that the government was spending record amounts of cash on "special advisers".

Last year's wage bill for ministerial advisers was 5.1m, up from 4.4m the previous year, figures released by Downing Street on Wednesday show.

Other figures also show the cost of ministerial visits abroad was 5.6m - 1.68m of that on trips by the prime minister.

'Bury bad news'

The figures are likely to spark a new row about the role of special advisers, who are paid by taxpayers but are not bound by the strict impartiality of the civil service.

The Tories accused ministers of "burying the bad news of the cost of spin" by publishing the COI annual report in the Commons library, which can only be accessed by MPs.

Tory chairman Theresa May said: "Before he was elected, Tony Blair promised to curb the cost of government advertising. But under Labour, it has soared by 146% - a rise of more than 160m.

"This is further proof of the growing culture of spin across Whitehall."

Education spending

The figures do not include election marketing and advertising costs because the government is not allowed to use the COI for political purposes.

Last year the figures were down from 295m in 2000-2001.

The biggest spending of any department, after "other" expenditure of 46m, was the Department for Education and Skills, 46m.

Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said it was time that limits were placed on the numbers of special advisers, particularly in Number 10.

Charles Clarke
Mr Clarke has admitted Labour has too many spin doctors
The issue was thrust into the spotlight after special adviser Jo Moore sent an e-mail saying 11 September was a good day to bury bad news.

The "catastrophic" row which followed exposed "serious flaws" in the government's relationship with the civil service, a committee of MPs ruled earlier this month.

The MPs called for clearly defined roles for special advisers, to be enshrined in a Civil Service Act.

Campbell tops league

At present there are 75 special advisers - more than a third at Number Ten, with an average salary of 58,000.


The government seems to think it is perfectly acceptable to spend vast amounts of taxpayers' money on special advisers and foreign travel

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservatives
Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's director of communications, and Jonathan Powell, the prime minister's chief of staff, top the special adviser pay league.

Although their individual salaries are not disclosed, they are within a band which has a maximum of 128,000.

Downing Street insists the salaries match comparable public sector pay rates - and account for just 0.02% of the total government payroll of 26bn.

Limited results?

But the Conservatives say the government is not getting value for money.

Shadow local government minister Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: "The government seems to think it is perfectly acceptable to spend vast amounts of taxpayers' money on special advisers and foreign travel.

"The tragedy is that they have so little to show for it."

Earlier this month, Labour party chairman Charles Clarke said he thought the government had too many special advisers - but claimed the media also exaggerated the issue.

In a separate Commons answer, it was revealed that just under a third of the 5.6m cost of ministerial trips - 1.68m - went on Mr Blair's trips abroad, many of them taken as part of his shuttle diplomacy in the war on terrorism.

Family holiday

The most expensive trip was Mr Blair's week-long visit to Central and South America last summer, which cost 291,902.

Mr Blair was joined by 26 officials on the trip, which took him to Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

The prime minister was joined by his family immediately afterwards for a holiday.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's visits cost 33,758.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker criticised the government for attempting to "bury" the figures by releasing them on the final day of Parliament before the summer recess.

See also:

09 Jul 02 | Politics
30 Jun 02 | Politics
23 Jun 02 | Politics
04 Jan 99 | Politics
07 Jun 02 | Politics
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