Letter: Hansard holds evidence on ministers and the truth

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The Independent Online
Sir: What is so remarkable about the furore that has followed the statement made by William Waldegrave to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee is the conflict of evidence about what constitutes proper behaviour for a minister in his or her dealings with Parliament.

No doubt, the absence of a written constitution, or indeed any clear and unequivocal rules (Questions of Procedures for Ministers are at best incomplete), compounds the difficulty. There should be guidelines for civil servants and government ministers in their dealings with each other, and, as importantly, with Parliament and the public.

A number of civil servants feel that the incidents of ministers misleading Parliament are cause for anxiety. The problem is that as civil servants their primary duty is to maintain confidentiality and loyal service 'for all practical purposes' to the Government of the day. Such a sweeping statement of their duties is not a tenable position, and now needs urgent review.

Yours sincerely,

ELIZABETH SYMONS

General Secretary

The Association of

First Division

Civil Servants

London, SW1

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