HC Deb 24 October 1985 vol 84 c193W
Q40. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) of 26 February, Official Report, column 132. about the letter from Sir Robert Armstrong about the duties and responsibilities of civil servants in relation to Ministers, over any convenient period, what was the number of occasions on which a senior civil servant has gone, in relation to a matter of conscience, to the head of the Home Civil Service; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Biffen

I have been asked to reply.

Sir Robert Armstrong's note said: 11. A civil servant who feels that to act or to abstain from acting in a particular way, or to acquiesce in a particular decision for course of action, would raise for him or her a fundamental issue of conscience, or is so profoundly opposed to a policy as to feel unable conscientiously to administer it in accordance with the standards described in this note, should consult a superior officer, or in the last resort the Permanent Head of the Department, who can and should if necessary consult the Head of the Home Civil Service.

The words "or in the last resort the Permanent Head of the Department" were inadvertently omitted from the text of the note printed in the Official Report for 26 February 1985, at columns 30–2

The procedure envisaged is thus for the civil servant troubled by an issue of conscience in the manner described to consult in the first instance a superior officer, or in the last resort his permanent secretary. It is only after there has been consultation of the permanent secretary that there is any question of consulting the head of the Home Civil Service, and then it is for the permanent secretary and not for the individual concerned to initiate that consultation.

Such approaches to the head of the Home Civil Service are likely to be very rare. They would be treated as entirely confidential, and it would not be appropriate to disclose information about them. But I can say that there have been no such approaches since Sir Robert Armstrong's note was issued on 26 February 1985.