Union slams “deafening silence” of ministers as civil service attacked over Ivan Rogers resignation

Written by Suzannah Brecknell & Matt Foster on 4 January 2017 in News

FDA chief Dave Penman calls on ministers to publicly defend civil servants following criticism of outgoing UK ambassador to the European Union Ivan Rogers

The head of the FDA union has accused prime minister Theresa May of “sitting back” as the civil service comes under attack following the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s ambassador to the European Union.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the union representing senior officials, said that following public criticism from former ministers and pro-Brexit politicians, there was a “deafening silence from ministers who should be taking to the airwaves to defend the integrity and capability of the impartial civil service".

Rogers' resignation on Tuesday was welcomed by prominent pro-Brexit campaigners such as financier Arron Banks who described Rogers as "yet another of the establishment's pro-EU old guard", and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage who called for a “complete clear out” of the Foreign Office.

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Former cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith meanwhile told the BBC that the civil service had yet to “accept and understand that we are leaving [the EU]”.

“The government knows where it’s going — it just needs civil servants who will help implement it,” he said.

Commenting on the reaction to Roger's resignation, Penman said: "The prime minister herself has publicly criticised civil servants, trivialised those who suggest that the civil service is being under-resourced and now sits back as key officials are pilloried by a succession of former ministers.

"If the civil service is to deliver a successful Brexit negotiation, the recipe for that success is unlikely to be to starve it of resources, lack clarity of objective and be surrounded with yes men and women who will not speak truth unto power."

Penman’s comments were meanwhile echoed by Labour's shadow minister for the digital economy, Louise Haigh, who told CSW that "juvenile Brexiteers" appeared "happy to trash the reputation of any institution or public servant who speaks honestly".

"They are playing a very dangerous game questioning the integrity and motivations of civil servants who are giving honest and candid advice about the scale of the challenge we face," she said. "It is all the more absurd as it will be their expertise Brexiteers will call for when their fantasy plans meet with reality."

Haigh also accused politicians of being "totally unprepared to defend those public servants who cannot defend themselves", with serving officials contractually barred from speaking to the media without authorisation from ministers.

 "Their silence is not only deafening, it is complete cowardice," she added. "It is about time ministers acted responsibly and defended dedicated civil servants who are working flat out to prepare Britain for negotiations."

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Suzannah Brecknell & Matt Foster
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Suzannah Brecknell is CSW's senior reporter. She tweets as @SuzannahCSW

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Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 5 January, 2017 - 13:31
What about asking the main union in Civil Service rather than the Dave Penman show for a change?

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