[2020] Motion 52 Undermining the impartiality and integrity of the civil service

carried motion
Carried motion

Received from:

Congress recognises that an impartial and permanent civil service is the bedrock of effective and efficient government. Civil servants, appointed through open and fair competition rather than patronage, are able to give their best impartial, professional advice to ministers without fear or favour. Ministers, accountable to parliament for their decisions, are free to ignore or act on that advice, but ultimately it is their decision and this must be implemented by the civil service.

This process, enshrined in legislation, is one of the reasons why the UK civil service is independently judged in the InCiSE Index as the most effective in the world.

While there is always tension in government between ministers and civil servants, the current government has adopted an operating model of routinely briefing against and undermining both the service and its senior leadership. Anonymous briefings, providing ministers with plausible deniability, undermine not only the careers and lives of individuals who are constitutionally unable to defend themselves, but represent a serious threat to ability of civil servants to speak truth to power.

Whatever the source of these repeated briefings, it is the responsibility of the prime minister, as the head of government and minister for the civil service, to put a halt to this practice. Congress therefore calls on the TUC to call on the prime minister to:

i. publicly and repeatedly condemn the practice of briefing against civil servants when they occur

ii. commit to treating briefings in the same manner as leaks, including launching inquiries and taking action against perpetrators as necessary.



  • Insert new paragraph 4:
    “This threat is exacerbated by proposed radical changes to the Government Communications Service. Greater politicisation of government communications and centralisation for its own sake will undermine the vital qualities of impartiality, nuance and expertise and will damage citizens’ confidence in the information they receive.”