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Discussion > What are the rules and traditions for criticism of the Civil Service (and of civil servants) by peers and MP's?

Could somebody who is clued up on the traditions and rules of Parliament and the Civil Service clarify what are the rules and traditions governing criticism by peers or MPs of civil servants?

I posted a comment on the "Betts Off" thread: "But on what basis can it be said that civil servants in general should not be criticised by politicians? (If that is what RB actually said).
RB - if you read this, would you care to spell it out?"

Richard Betts replied : "If a member of the House of Lords has a concern over the integrity of civil service staff, he should raise it with the minister responsible for the department instead of shooting his mouth off in the press."

I can see that that clearly applies to a member of the Government. Ministers do not (publicly) criticise civil servants who report to them and likewise other members of their government do not do so.

But does it apply to all members of the House of Lords (and MPs), even if they are not members of the Government? Or if they are not even members of the political party of the Government?

And what if the minister responsible dismisses the concern when it is raised with them?

And what if the peer is writing in their role as a journalist and they are not presenting themselves as a member of the House of Lords?

And what if the concern is not about "integrity" but about, say, bias, or about public declarations made by a civil servant while acting in their official role? Or about the quality or validity of their publicly available published work?

Beats me. Can anybody elucidate?

Dec 11, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Something from the Independent, and I think it covers the situation you're asking about, Civil Servants being criticised by MPs for something they've said in public. Although Richard Betts couldn't be described as a Top Civil Servant,

MPs attack top civil servants over Thatcher tribute

Dec 11, 2014 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The Head of the Civil Service was the Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet,and it was to him or her that MPs or Lords ultimately should address any complaints about Civil Servants, either directly, or through the Minister for the Civil Service, (who is the Prime Minister). Then in 2012 the two jobs were split, with the Head of the Civil Service going to the PS of the Department of Communities and Local Government. But, in the Cabinet reshuffle in July, the PS Cabinet (Jeremy Heywood) again became the head of the Civil Service.

Dec 11, 2014 at 8:33 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian