Shipley MP Philip Davies demanded answers as to why government ministers are allowed to campaign for or against remaining in the EU, but a civil servant was not – despite being outside working hours.
Speaking in the Commons last Wednesday he said: “A constituent of mine who works for HMRC in Shipley contacted me after being told by his managers that he is unable to help the campaign to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum, even delivering leaflets in his own time. Given that government ministers are free to campaign to leave the EU in a personal capacity, why is the government not allowing the same courtesy to civil servants?”
Cabinet Minister Matthew Hancock said civil servants must abide by specific rules around engaging in political activity.
Section 4.4 of the Civil Service Management Code sets out the restrictions that may apply to certain members of departmental or agency staff on their taking part in political activities, depending on their role.
He added: “The Government has a clear position in the referendum. We want to stay in a reformed European Union. It is only because of the munificence, tolerance and generosity of spirit of our Prime Minister that ministers are allowed to disagree in public with the government position at all.”
The referendum will be held on June 23.
Mr Davies said: “This referendum is the chance for people to have their say on our future and no one should be stopped from expressing their opinions. My constituent is not asking to express his views in working hours. He should not be dictated to as to what he can do in his personal time. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and should be free to express that if they so wish. It is ludicrous to be told what he can or cannot do in his own time.”