“… Is the civil service orchestrating an EU referendum cover-up?
Whitehall sources have confirmed that Heywood [Head of Civil Service] told senior civil servants that there would be times when they would have to bypass the six senior ministers who want to leave the EU.
And in a statement issued by the Vote Leave campaign group, Patel said: “It is important that the civil service maintains impartiality during the EU referendum. Jeremy Heywood’s unconstitutional act threatens the reputation of the civil service.
“Secretaries of state are responsible for their departments. For an unelected official to prevent them being aware of the information they need for their duties is wrong. …
… Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Commons public administration select committee, who is tabling an urgent question in the Commons, said Heywood appeared to be acting in an “unorthodox and unprecedented” manner. The row first broke out last week when Heywood issued guidelines banning civil servants from showing official papers related to the EU referendum to Brexit.
In a move aimed specifically at Iain Duncan Smith, Heywood issued guidelines last week to ban civil servants from preparing new research for anti-EU cabinet ministers that could be used in the EU referendum campaign. No 10 had feared that Duncan Smith, who has strong doubts about the welfare elements of the prime minister’s EU reform plan, would seek to ask his officials to assess the credibility of the plan.
At least one permanent secretary is understood to have raised concerns with their Brexit secretary of state that Heywood may be acting in a constitutionally inappropriate manner because secretaries of state, technically at least, are solely responsible for their departments under a seal granted by the Queen.
Officials in Heywood’s office are also contacting the private offices of ministers who have yet to declare which side they are supporting in the referendum, asking them to make their intentions clear. This is designed to work out whether they are entitled to see all papers in their department related to the referendum. Duncan Smith urged David Cameron to reverse the Heywood guidelines.
Jenkin said that any attempt by Heywood to bypass a secretary of state would be unconstitutional and could be unlawful by infringing the Carltona principle, which says that officials in a department work “under the authority of ministers”. Jenkin, whose committee will question Heywood on Tuesday, said of the cabinet secretary’s guidelines: “This is unorthodox and unprecedented. In law the minister is indivisible from his or her department.”
Well, we can tell them all about how restricting information works in East Devon! If you don’t belong to the Cabinet (even if you are a councillor from the same political party) you will never get to know how some decisions start out, get developed or even end up. Your colleagues won’t tell you and senior officers won’t tell you either.
Welcome to our world Ms Patel!