Former minister accuses Whitehall of misleading Government officials

Posted On: 
13th September 2017

The former minister in charge of the civil service has lashed out at Whitehall officials, accusing them of misleading ministers and questioning their ability to implement Brexit.

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The Times reports that Lord Maude, who served as Cabinet Office Minister in the coalition government, said he had been shocked at the performance of his officials during his time in government.

Delivering a speech in Parliament as part of the Speaker's lectures, he said: “Honesty and integrity are two of the civil service’s statutory values. Yet it is surprising how often ministers are told things that are simply not true. 

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"Quite often I would be told that the law precluded a particular course. More often than not it was not the case. 

“I and others have observed that all too often the first reaction of senior civil servants when something wrong is discovered is either to cover it up or to find a scapegoat, often someone who is not a career civil servant and who is considered dispensable,” he said.

And he said that in order to realise the benefits of Brexit, the civil service would need reform to become "genuinely the best in the world".

His comments drew a strong response from the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who said: "It is a pity that Lord Maude has chosen to attack the organisation and its dedicated staff with a wholly inaccurate portrayal of what is widely regarded as one of the world’s most effective and efficient civil services.”

John Manzoni, the chief executive of the civil service, hit back at the claims that mandarins were digging in against reform.

"Far from stopping reform we are deepening and accelerating," he said. 

"The civil service is undertaking a huge programme of fundamental transformation to deliver sustainable change and equip the civil service for the post-Brexit world.”