Ministers and civil servants in Michael Gove's Department for Education lead an Upstairs, Downstairs lifestyle, the former Children's Minister has claimed.
According to Tim Loughton, ministers are ensconced in their ivory towers and actively discouraged from venturing around the building to discuss issues with officials. He told MPs how he occasionally managed to slip minders to go and have a conversation with officials in policy areas he was concerned about. "When I wanted to have a quick chat, I occasionally played hooky and went to another floor. There was a bit of the Upstairs, Downstairs about it."
He said it was all "a bit Mr Grace-like" – likening the relationship to that outlined in the TV sitcom Are You Being Served?; civil servants would be called together about only once a year for a social gathering and be told: "You've all done very well."
Mr Loughton, sacked from his job in the last reshuffle, spoke of his concern that children's welfare issues were being downgraded as the "bulldozer" of Mr Gove's schools reforms went on its way.