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from the General Secretary

DAVE PENMAN

11 September 2019

Rt Hon Boris Johnson


Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister

As I’m sure you appreciate, the impartiality and integrity of the civil service are corner stones
of effective government. As Prime Minister and previously as a minister, you will have
worked closely with civil servants who have served your government, and successive
governments, to the best of their ability, whatever the political persuasion of the government
of the day.

Brexit has been a lightning rod for attacks on the civil service as those who seek to further
their own political agenda have been prepared to sacrifice public confidence in the service
with baseless accusations of bias or sought to undermine its professional integrity.

As Prime Minister and therefore Minister for the Civil Service, civil servants look to you to
defend these principles, but increasingly over the last few weeks the greatest concern for
civil servants has come from the very office that is meant to be at the frontline of its defence.

Whatever political calculations that are being made about how this may play out with groups
of the electorate, the suggestion that the government, and by implication the civil service, will
be asked to ignore the settled will of Parliament, is causing increasing consternation among
civil servants.

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 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.

As Prime Minister, your duty is to ensure that the impartiality and integrity of the civil service
is protected. There should be no grey areas when it comes to the duty to uphold the law and
abide by the civil service code. Civil servants should not be placed in a position where they
are expected to be, or are seen to be, arbiters of the law. Almost unimaginably, the endless
speculation emanating from No.10 suggests that is where they may end up. Today’s
judgement from the Court of Session in Scotland will only add to the uncertainty and
increase concerns among civil servants.

FDA Head Office 93-95 Borough High Street London SE1 1NL T: 0207 401 5555 W: www.fda.org.uk E: dave@fda.org.uk
from the General Secretary
DAVE PENMAN

Only you, as Prime Minister, can end this speculation. I am a therefore asking you 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”. Also, that you will ensure that where any concerns are raised or
requests for clarification are made, these will be addressed, without delay and without
recrimination.

The longer this speculation continues, the greater the damage to the civil service, its
relationship with ministers and the confidence of the public in civil servants. I would therefore
be grateful if you could address these issues as a matter of urgency.

FDA Head Office 93-95 Borough High Street London SE1 1NL T: 0207 401 5555 W: www.fda.org.uk E: dave@fda.org.uk