HC Deb 13 December 1962 vol 669 cc559-60
9. Mr. M. Stewart

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what instructions are given to senior officials in his Department concerning the public expression of controversial political opinions.

Sir K. Joseph

The instruction to all senior civil servants is that they should not take part in matters of public and political controversy.

But it is of course perfectly appropriate that civil servants should explain to those concerned the policies of the Government of the day as they have already been announced and explained by the responsible Ministers.

Mr. Stewart

Could not the Minister consider this again in view of the Answer be gave to the previous Question and the Answer he has just given, in which he said that the proper object of attack was the Minister? That is generally accepted. It is generally understood that one does not normally attack civil servants, but if civil servants open fire from under that flag of truce they cannot object if attacks are then made on them. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this again? We have here a rather alarming precedent. It may have been a most lively and entertaining speech, but it was a highly controversial one. Some of the opinions would be considered by many of us to be highly debatable, and some of them very old-fashioned. Is it wise for senior civil servants to be brought into public controversy? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider what might be involved if this continues?

Sir K. Joseph

I am absolutely satisfied about the discretion and propriety of my Permanent Secretary. She has taken only the opportunities which she was invited to take to explain policies that had already been announced by a Minister to those immediately concerned with them.

Mr. MacColl

Would the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government announced their policy on local income tax which apparently caused such alarming and physical trouble to the Permanent Secretary? When this House debated the Local Government Bill there was no firm announcement of Government policy.

Sir K. Joseph

I know, or at least I think, that the hon. Gentleman differs from his party on this issue, but it has been made clear from this Box time and again, and in Committee upstairs, that the Government do not see any panacea as an alternative to rates by way of local income tax or otherwise.

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