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Wednesday 09 September 2020

Penman praises outgoing Treasury Solicitor for ‘representing the very best’ of the civil service

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FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has praised Sir Jonathan Jones as an “exemplar public servant” who represents “the very best values of an impartial and professional civil service”, following reports that he had resigned as Treasury Solicitor and Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department.

“With over 31 years’ experience as a government lawyer, almost seven of those as Treasury Solicitor, he will not have taken this decision lightly,” he explained.

The news that Sir Jonathan was stepping down was first made public through a report in the FT. Penman told the publication: “Civil servants, like ministers, have an obligation to uphold the rule of law. The ministerial and civil service code are both unequivocal on this. In government there are a lot of grey areas, those who advise ministers are used to fudges, compromises and any number of mechanisms to get around concerns or conflicts. Even in the legal world, many issues are matters of interpretation rather than principle. It is, therefore, all the more extraordinary that the government’s most senior legal adviser has decided he has no choice but resign over an issue, that he presumably believes conflicts with his own and ministerial obligations, to act within both the spirit and letter of the law.

“In a year where we have witnessed permanent secretaries resign live on TV, get thrown under a bus by ministers and quietly go in numbers that can no longer be explained simply as churn, Sir Jonathan Jones’s resignation will stand out as an extraordinary decision of principle, representing the very best values of an impartial and professional civil service.”

Penman's response was also reported in the Times and BBC News.

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