Armstrong Memorandum

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th June 1988.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 13th June 1988

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service on how many occasions since January 1986 civil servants who felt that actions they have been required to take were fundamentally against their consciences, have gone ultimately to the head of the home Civil Service or the head of the Diplomatic Service, under the terms of the Armstrong memorandum.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Precisely. So if the Armstrong memorandum was at all realistic, why is it that a civil servant should, at great risk, send the briefing that the Secretary of State for Education and Science had in front of him to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—the matter is referred to in column 788 of Hansard for 17 May—revealing the extent of the cold, calculated deceit of the Commons in the Secretary of State's answer to me.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

The hon. Gentleman is a colourful character, although his questions get a bit tedious and repetitive. I was asked how many civil servants had used the existing guidelines procedures on grounds of conscience. The answer is that none have done so. They have a right to do so. Under the Armstrong guidelines recently produced, they have a right to go through certain procedures if they think that they have a grievance on ethical grounds or grounds of conscience. They can go to their permanent secretary and ultimately, if they so wish, to the head of the home Civil Service. The hon. Gentlemen asked how many had used that right, and the answer is none.

Photo of Mr Spencer Batiste Mr Spencer Batiste , Elmet

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the existence of the procedure and the fact that no civil servants have used it in the time scale referred to, there can be no justification whatever of the underhand leaking of documents by civil servants in breach of the terms of their contracts of employment?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

Any leak against the rules of the organisation is to be deplored. I have no particular case in mind in saying that. By and large, the standards of the Civil Service are extremely high and will remain so.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Is not the failure of the Armstrong memorandum to provide real protection the reason why civil servants have leaked like sieves in relation to the Richmond Yard affair, in which a Minister deliberately misled Parliament?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that. No hon. Member deliberately misleads Parliament.

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of that unsatisfactory reply, I give notice that I propose to raise on the Adjournment the conduct of civil servants.