Civil servants complain about minister

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The Independent Online
WHITEHALL mandarins have taken the unprecedented step of complaining to Sir Robin Butler, the head of the Civil Service, about the allegedly overbearing conduct of a Government minister.

The Association of First Division Civil Servants sent a detailed complaint to Sir Robin about Charles Wardle, the Home Office immigration minister. Sir Robin cannot make the minister answer to him, but he can raise civil servants' concerns with Mr Wardle's superior, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, if he finds the complaints are justified.

The approach to Sir Robin follows months of rising anger inside the Home Office, with claims that research projects have been abandoned because their findings conflict with the Government's hardline law and order policies.

Civil servants have become concerned about what they see as abrupt and dismissive treatment and were appalled that ministers ignored their advice over the police and criminal justice Bills - both of which were subsequently torn apart in the House of Lords.

Two weeks ago, the small group of civil servants in Mr Wardle's private office became so angry at the way they were being treated that they discussed walking out in protest. They were 'fed up with being bawled out', said a civil servant, who did not wish to be identified.

News of the complaint comes after the Government announced plans last week to cut further the Civil Service and bring in more managers from the private sector to fill senior advisory posts. Ministers' preference for businessmen is already causing friction. At one recent meeting a minister turned from his civil servants to a group of businessmen and said: 'Now, can you tell these bozos about the real world?'

The latest outburst from Mr Wardle, 55, came when the Home Office research unit presented him with a study of 263 refugees living in Britain. Instead of supporting ministers' view that asylum seekers were generally economic migrants wanting to live on benefit, it found that most wanted to and could contribute to the economy and had fled to Britain from political persecution rather than poverty.

Mr Wardle was furious, and questioned both the integrity of the researchers and the methodology of the research. The report has not been published.

A Home Office spokesman denied there were any complaints about Mr Wardle, who is MP for Bexhill and Battle. The minister was unavailable for comment.

(Photograph omitted)