26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Sackings over political breaches denied

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The UK’s two most senior Public Servants have denied media reports that some officers had been sacked for breaching the Civil Service Code requiring them to be politically neutral.

The reports followed MPs’ questions about the Government campaign Get Ready for Brexit, which is designed to convince people and businesses to prepare for leaving the European Union with or without a deal.

Critics have labelled it as pre-election campaigning on behalf of the Conservative Party.

In a joint statement, Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured) and Chief Executive of the Civil Service, John Manzoni said none of the main 18 Whitehall Departments had “any record or awareness of any cases involving obstruction by Civil Servants”.

They also defended the Get Ready for Brexit campaign, saying the Government had a duty to inform people, businesses and other organisations about how to get ready for when the UK leaves the EU.

In the same statement, the two Public Service bosses said they had seen no evidence that the police were intentionally dragged into politics when Prime Minister, Boris Johnson gave a political speech in front of a group of police officers in Wakefield in September.

Mr Johnson had been expected to use the setting to announce a police recruitment drive, but his speech also covered Brexit and the Labour Party’s opposition to a General Election.

The Prime Minister’s Office later said the political speech was due to take place elsewhere, but the day’s schedule had been rearranged at the last minute.

Sir Mark and Mr Manzoni stressed that the situation had arisen because of an error in judgement.

They said there should have been a clearer delineation between the Government policy aspects (concerning police recruitment) and political content.

“In addition, the media questions went beyond police recruitment to cover other topical issues,” they said.

“Due to the last-minute changes, these aspects were not considered properly.”

London, 23 October 2019

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