Can Civil Servants Really Speak Truth to Power?

by ukcivilservant

Civil servants are proud of their duty to ‘speak truth to power’ – that is to provide honest, impartial and sensible advice to Ministers. But it can be difficult to do this without damaging the official’s  relationship with Ministers.

There is little or no internal training or advice on how to offer persuasive advice, not least because no official training material can admit that some Minsters can be very difficult clients. I have therefore added a new section to my Civil Service website.

The first set of pages explain why it can be difficult it can be to speak truth to power, and in particular why it might have become more difficult in recent years:

There are then some hints and tips about:

Last, but not least, I examine the extent to which civil servants are free – or even under a duty – to say “No! Minister”.

Those particularly interested in these last three pages might also like to read and respond to the IfG’s current discussion paper on Accountability in Government.

As ever, comments and corrections would be very welcome – to please.

Martin Stanley