The coalition has quietly appointed a string of party employees to civil service roles – including one aide to the foreign secretary, William Hague – in a move that has raised concerns among senior Whitehall figures, the Guardian has learned.
Hague today said he felt forced to give yesterday's unprecedented personal statement about his marriage to "put the record straight" after intense speculation about his relationship with a special adviser in a row that has cast light on the propriety of political appointments.
Separately, several Conservative party and MP employees have been given civil service roles in the Cabinet Office, Department for Education, Foreign Office and Downing Street, stretching the rules regarding appointments. While special advisers are political appointees who can be hired at the will of ministers, civil servants are supposed to be politically impartial and in the majority of cases go through competitive processes to get a job.
Chloe Dalton, an adviser to Hague in opposition, has been drafted into the Foreign Office as a civil servant. Two speechwriters to David Cameron before the election, Ameetpal Gill and Clare Foges, have paid civil service jobs in Downing Street.
Sam Freedman, who helped devise the Tories' free schools policy in opposition, has been made an adviser on the civil service pay roll in the DfE.
Rishi Saha, an internet expert who is close to Cameron's inner circle and was head of digital strategy for the Conservatives, has been appointed the deputy director of digital communications at the Cabinet Office. The Guardian understands that in at least two, unnamed cases the Cabinet Office conduct and ethics department was asked to vet the appointments and passed them.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said that all civil service appointees must abide by a code dictating that they perform all functions impartially. He added: "Departmental recruitment policies allow individuals to be appointed without open competition on a fixed-term contract where positions need to be filled at short notice. It would be misleading to suggest that there is one particular reason for such appointments. There are a range of specialist skills that may be needed urgently, particularly when a new government is bringing forward a whole new set of policies."
Jonathan Baume, head of the FDA union of senior civil servants, said: "Where we start to have concerns is where you get people with political backgrounds being appointed to civil servant roles. That's when I start to get nervous."
A Downing Street source insisted that Labour made similar appointments when it came to power and said the coalition government was more transparent than its predecessors.
It emerged today that Downing Street failed to include the aide at the centre of the row over Hague's private life in an official list of special advisers published in June. It raises questions about whether Christopher Myers's appointment was official and whether the list, designed to demonstrate how the coalition was cutting back on political appointments, was complete.
Hague's office confirmed the appointment of Myers, who quit yesterday citing the pressure of speculation surrounding his relationship with the foreign secretary, was approved on 24 May. The official list naming all so-called "Spads" and their wage brackets did not include Myers when it was revealed on 10 June. The Cabinet Office said Myers was not included because he had not taken up the post by 10 June 10 despite the appointment being confirmed. Liam Fox became the second secretary of state to appoint a third spad in August.
Hague spoke out as Cameron's office confirmed the prime minister has "100% confidence" in his foreign secretary. Hague said he had made the "very personal statement", in which he denied allegations that he was gay, that his marriage was in trouble and that he had an improper relationship with Myers, to end speculation. The statement revealed that he and his wife Ffion had suffered a series of miscarriages. His admission that he and Myers had shared twin bedrooms during the election campaign drew criticisms from Tory colleagues who questioned his judgment.
Hague told a Foreign Office press conference today: "Yesterday, I made a very personal statement, which was not an easy thing to do. I am not going to expand on that today. My wife and I really felt we had had enough of the circulation of untrue allegations, particularly on the internet, and at some point you have to speak out about that and put the record straight."
Asked about his colleague John Redwood's suggestion that Hague himself now acknowledged he had exercised "poor judgment" in sharing a room with his assistant, Hague said his work "has not missed a beat, and will not miss a beat, at any stage. I have not spent many minutes away from all duties of the foreign secretary."
The Tory peer Lord Tebbit said Hague had been "naive at best, foolish at worst". Redwood wrote on his blog: "Let us hope this is now an end to the matter. Mr Hague himself now seems to believe that it was poor judgment to share a hotel room with an assistant."
Hague was forced to issue the extraordinarily personal and detailed statement under mounting pressure from reports in political blogs and investigations by newspapers over the past few weeks speculating about the appointment of the 25-year old Durham university graduate. Downing Street denied reports Hague was prepared to quit over the furore.
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