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Thursday 12 September 2019

FDA to PM: Don’t make our civil servants break the law or their code

Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to put an end to worrying speculation and categorically confirm that no civil servant will be asked to “breach their obligation under the civil service code”.

Fears that the Prime Minister will break the law by refusing to request a Brexit extension, in conjunction with uncertainties around the legality of the prorogation of Parliament, has caused concerns about the future of core civil service values.

The civil service code demands impartiality, and for civil servants to serve the government of the day. However, it also demands these members of staff “comply with the law and uphold the administration of justice.” Hypotheses about civil servants being asked to commit illegal activity by the Prime Minister have left many concerned around, as Penman described it, “where this leaves the civil service and [civil servants’] obligations under the civil service code”.

Seeking to put an end to the uncertainty, Penman sent a letter to Johnson demanding clarity and an assurance that civil servants’ integrity would not be compromised.

“No civil servant should believe there is a conflict between complying with the law and serving the government of the day – and no Prime Minister should place the civil service in such an invidious position,” the General Secretary wrote. “The endless speculation that government will refuse to implement an Act of Parliament may serve short term political interest, but as Prime Minister your responsibilities go beyond tactical political game playing”.

Penman reminded the Prime Minister that he was the “only one” who could end such speculation. He demanded Johnson to “categorically and publicly assure the civil service that no civil servant will be asked to breach their obligation under the civil service code to ‘comply with the law and uphold the administration of justice’”.  

In addition to this, he asked that the Prime Minister “ensure that where any concerns are raised or requests for clarification are made, these will be addressed, without delay and without recrimination”.

The letter, and its demands, has been reported by the national and local press, and has earned coverage from a range of news outlets including The Guardian, The Daily Mail, ITV News, The Belfast Telegraph and Politics Home

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