Union push for more MPs to sign motion on civil service impartiality

Written by Tamsin Rutter on 5 March 2018 in News
News

Prospect calls on members to urge their MPs to sign EDM condemning attacks on public service

Credit: Flickr/ Angel Abril Ruiz

Prospect trade union has moved to raise the profile of a parliamentary motion calling for the government to recognise the professionalism and impartiality of the civil service.

The union has urged its members, 34,000 of whom work in the civil service and related areas, to encourage their MPs to sign the motion.

The early day motion was tabled in February by Labour MP Daniel Zeichner amid public outcry over comments from some politicians, including Brexit minister Steve Baker, that appeared to question civil service neutrality. It has so far only been signed by 11 MPs.


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Baker was forced to apologise after he appeared to support comments made by leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing civil servants in the Treasury of “deliberately” developing economic models that favour Britain staying in the customs union with the European Union.

Prospect said such “inaccurate attacks are deeply damaging to our public sector workforce and must be refuted”. The union pointed to the “demoralising” impact of such comments, particularly when public servants are working hard to deliver government policy following more than seven years of pay restraint.

It said it was encouraging all members to write to their MPs to encourage them to sign EDM 925.

The motion calls on MPs to publicly state their support for the civil service and condemn any attempts to undermine their integrity and impartiality.

It states: “That this House notes that the strength of the UK civil service lies in its political impartiality and its responsibility to provide objective advice to ministers without fear or favour; recognises the contribution civil servants make to the good of the country; further recognises the important role that independent advice and expertise plays in informing ministers and Parliament; and condemns any attempts to call into question the integrity of the civil service or to involve civil servants in political arguments.”

Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, pointed out that the EDM had already received cross-party support “recognising the importance of the civil service and the contribution it makes to our democracy”.

Nine of the 11 signatories are Labour MPs, including Hugh Gaffney, Ruth George, Mary Glindon, Kelvin Hopkins, Sandy Martin, Marie Rimmer, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Thelma Walker and Zeichner.

Conservative MP Peter Bottomley and Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon have also signed the motion.

Graham added: “The UK civil service provides high quality, objective advice to government without fear or favour. It is vital that we protect civil service independence and impartiality.

“We will not allow the civil service to be used as a punch bag by those seeking to advance their own narrow personal or political interests.”

About the author

Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for Civil Service World and tweets as @TamsinRutter

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