Express & Star

Rainbow lanyard ban does not appear in updated Civil Service diversity guidance

Government minister Esther McVey said civil servants must not allow their personal political views to determine their actions.

Last updated
Esther McVey

Newly published guidance on diversity and inclusion in the Civil Service does not directly reference a ban on rainbow lanyards worn by staff that Esther McVey had suggested.

The Cabinet Office minister, informally referred to as the “common sense minister”, announced a crackdown on Monday on “inappropriate backdoor politicisation” in Whitehall, saying officials should be leaving their political views “at the building entrance”.

Ms McVey, who attends Cabinet as a minister without portfolio, said civil servants should wear “standard design” lanyards – appearing to indicate that the colourway used to express support for LGBT+ issues should not be used.

A refresh of the guidance provided to civil servants on their duty to remain impartial was published on Tuesday night, which said they must “always be guided by the core values of objectivity and impartiality set out in the Civil Service code when carrying out work in diversity and inclusion”, but made no direct reference to staff lanyards.

The guidance said the Civil Service’s diversity and inclusion strategy was aimed at ensuring such values were “mainstream”, while adding there was no requirement for “homogeneity or conformity of belief or views”.

It also said that while civil servants “must have a shared goal to tackle discrimination and prejudice, views on how to practically address issues relating to diversity and inclusion are varied”.

The guidance advised civil servants against “presenting subjective views or theories relating to diversity and inclusion as accepted fact or as the position of their organisation”.

In a written statement published at the end of the Commons sitting day on Tuesday, Ms McVey said: “The guidance makes clear that civil servants must not allow their personal political views to determine their actions or any advice they give related to diversity and inclusion in any part of their employment.”

Cabinet meeting
Esther McVey arrives in Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting (PA)

In a speech at the Centre for Policy Studies think tank on Monday, the minister had said: “Working in the Civil Service is all about leaving your political views at the building entrance, and trying to introduce them by the back door via lanyards should not happen.”

Downing Street suggested Ms McVey had been merely been giving an illustrative example and that the new Civil Service guidance would be “more broad” and “not proscriptive”.

“It’s not going to be proscriptive in that sense. It will be an update on impartiality and how civil servants would be expected to behave to ensure that they are impartial and protected from politicisation – obviously the minister gave an example of that in her speech,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said earlier on Tuesday.

Asked whether Ms McVey had simply “overcooked” her speech with a reference to measures not specifically in the guidance, the spokesman said: “No, I think the speech was bringing to life the issues she has been working on.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps distanced himself from the remarks on Tuesday’s morning broadcast round, telling Times Radio: “Personally, I don’t mind people expressing their views on these things.

“It doesn’t, you know, what lanyard somebody wears, doesn’t particularly concern me.

“But I do think, and this is where I think Esther McVey has a point, that what we want is our civil servants to be getting on with the main job. And the main job is to serve the department they work for, in my case, defence, but across Whitehall.”

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.