FDA defends civil servants against unfair censure in its evidence to the Lords’ Constitution Committee

FDA general secretary Dave Penman robustly defended the right of civil servants not to be unfairly censured by select committees when he gave evidence to the House of Lord's Constitution Committee this morning.

Penman told the committee: "There is a degree of concern... about the operation of certain committees and the tone and nature of the scrutiny that they are under.

"It is time to review and have a look at those processes/procedures and see whether they can be improved so that there is confidence on all sides on it."

Penman said: "[FDA members] recognise that the role they play is a pivotal and important role in the delivery of public services and as a result of that there is a degree of accountability and transparency that should go with that role."

But the proper forum for the performance of individual civil servants to be judged was not select committee hearings, Penman said.

He added: "If a select committee felt that there were such significant issues about the conduct of an individual, it is appropriate that it is dealt with by the civil service, by the employer, that is fair and just to all.

"If you are an individual civil servant ... and you have not had the opportunity to put your side of the story, is it fair that publicly - to some degree - criticism is made of you without an ability for you to represent your interests, or that criticism is made without actually hearing the full facts?"

Penman also said the FDA had a number of concerns around "increasing politicisation" in relation to recently published Civil Service Reform Plan proposals to give ministers a greater role in appointing permanent secretaries.

Watch the FDA's evidence: