Simon Case: Conservative Party chair has apologised for 'activist civil servants' email

Cab sec says he takes undermining of civil service impartiality ‘incredibly seriously’ following row over comments attributed to Suella Braverman
Conservative Party chair Greg Hands. Photo: Imageplotter/Alamy Live News

By Tevye Markson

13 Mar 2023

The chairman of the Conservative Party has apologised about the email sent to supporters last week attacking civil servants in Suella Braverman's name, the cabinet secretary has said.

In a letter sent to the PCS union, Case said the government took swift action to address the “error” which saw an email sent to Tory members signed off by the home secretary accusing civil servants of “blocking” the government’s attempts to stop small boat crossings.

Case also told PCS he takes "any instances that may undermine our impartiality incredibly seriously”, in the letter seen by CSW.

The CCHQ email, which Braverman has insisted she neither saw nor signed off, said: “We tried to stop the small boat crossings without changing our laws. But an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour party blocked us.”

Case said he has spoken to party chairman Greg Hands, "who apologised for the error".

“He assured me that he has already taken action to change procedures in CCHQ to make sure that there is not a repeat of this incident," the head of the civil service said.

Hands has also “provided his assurance that attacks on the civil service are not part of any standard CCHQ lines”, Case added.

Mark Serwotka, PCS’s general secretary, wrote to Case on Friday, to express the union’s “deep concern” over what he called an “outrageous attack” on officials. Fellow civil service unions the FDA and Prospect sent similar letters to the prime minister.

Serwotka’s letter said the comments were “a slur on the political impartiality of the civil service”.

Responding, Case said: “As head of the civil service, I take any instances that may undermine our impartiality incredibly seriously and I am reassured that the error you have raised has been addressed quickly and that actions have been taken to help prevent it happening again.”

He said senior leaders in the civil service “acted quickly to raise the issue with government ministers, who immediately recognised the error and took steps to resolve it”.

Union bosses last week said the email may represent a breach of the ministerial code by Braverman because it undermined civil service impartiality.

Addressing the criticism of Braverman, Case said: “You will have seen that the home secretary has been clear that she did not see, sign off or sanction the email. She has also written to staff across the Home Office to thank them for their outstanding work on the illegal migration bill. Furthermore, the home secretary has also made clear her gratitude to Home Office civil servants in her public interviews in recent days.”

Case said he was “grateful” to Serwotka for raising the concerns. He also copied in FDA general secretary Dave Penman, who he said had "raised similar issues".

Penman last week described the CCHQ email as a "cowardly attack on civil servants" who cannot defend themselves and called on the home secretary to apologise. 

The Conservative Party has been approached for comment.

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