Minister under fire over poll

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Indy Politics
THE minister for open government, William Waldegrave, yesterday came under heavy all-party fire for blocking a poll of staff attitudes to radical changes in the Civil Service, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Mr Waldegrave clashed with even the loyalest Conservatives on the Commons Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee as he refused to give the go-ahead to the survey.

There was a risk of civil servants becoming part of the party political battleground, he insisted. It would be 'dangerous' and 'wrong', while the results might be misused. 'The risk seems to be greater than the potential gain.'

In response to remonstrations from Sir Thomas Arnold, Tory MP for Hazel Grove, that the Minister for Open Government was being 'unduly defensive', Mr Waldegrave insisted that one question was an 'attempt to measure whether there had been a change in the ethos of the Civil Service'.

It could be used to attack Government policy, he said. 'I don't think it would be right to let civil servants' views be used as part of that knockabout.' But the ultra- loyal Nigel Forman, Tory MP for Carshalton and Wallington, warned that civil service unions were 'already joining in the argument'.

Mr Waldegrave lost his temper with Labour's Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North, who said that while the committee was attempting to view the Civil Service as an employer, the minister was 'uninterested in the views of the ordinary civil servant'. He accused her of 'resorting to insult rather than enlightenment'.

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