A senior Tory and Brexiteer MP has criticised the government for insisting mistakes are never their fault when they arise.
Tory chairman of the Liaison Committee Sir Bernard Jenkin said ‘there is a sort of pattern setting in’ under Boris Johnson’s government where ‘something goes wrong and it is the permanent secretary’s fault or it is some public body’s fault’.
He added that he is ‘concerned’ that civil services will not be able to support ministers effectively if communications between ministers and officials ‘becomes stifled in an atmosphere of blame and fear’.
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The government was forced into a U-turn on Monday after an algorithm to moderate teacher-assessed results led to lower A-level grades for thousands of students.
The education secretary was accused of trying to shift the blame for the exam results debacle on to regulator Ofqual.
Sir Bernard called on Johnson to ensure ‘a much more collaborative approach’ to running the government.
‘Well, ministers have to make decisions – they either support their people or they get rid of them and get new people, and they can’t have a halfway house.
‘And I think that… I am concerned that there’s a sort of pattern setting in under this government that something goes wrong and it is the permanent secretary’s fault or it’s some public body’s fault, but it is never the government’s fault.
‘I recognise that there is a lot of frustration in government about Government machinery not seeming to function very well, or not responding to what ministers want, but the only way that the Civil Service can deliver what ministers want is if there is a free and open and trusting flow of information backwards and forwards from ministers and officials.
‘If the whole… discourse between ministers and officials becomes stifled in an atmosphere of blame and fear, then I don’t think civil servants will be able to support ministers very effectively.
‘Who is going to stick their head over the parapet, tell the minister the bad news, if they’re going to get blamed for it? There needs to be a much more collaborative approach to running the Government than has been demonstrated,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme.