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Senior civil servants are facing ministerial pressure to play politics, and join forces against Labour, in direct breach of Whitehall codes of conduct. The Association of First Division Civil Servants said last night that it was seeking an urgent meeting with Sir Robin Butler, head of the Home Civil Service, to make a formal complaint.

A recent survey carried out by the association found that more than 20 out of the few hundred officials in daily front-line contact with ministers complained of being asked to do work which might compromise their political impartiality. Complaints included pressure to: prepare material for election manifestos; alter reports to provide a party political slant; write political speeches; and, work on regional visits organised by Tory Central Office. Anthony Bevins