The Prime Minister said in a Commons reply that Sir Robin Butler, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Home Civil Service, had recently reminded civil servants of the code of conduct for elections, which emphasised the importance of political neutrality. Sir Robin told staff there was 'an increasing tendency by all political parties to approach local and European elections from a national point of view'.
He said departments should follow consistent principles when responding to requests for information in connection with election campaigns. They were advised to exercise particular care in issuing decisions with a local or European dimension.
There were five codes of conduct for civil servants: they should not be asked to engage in activities which called into question their political impartiality; they should be even-handed in providing information for candidates and replies should go through their ministers' private offices; factual information should be provided to the public and organisations; care should be taken on timing and announcement of sensitive decisions, and it may be better to delay some decisions; and special care should be taken in respect of new paid publicity campaigns.