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 is in practice very difficult to do this. We are supposed to be Ministers' critical friends. But we bound to be nervous in front of very powerful people. Some Ministers are none too keen on taking advice from civil servants. And no-one - and certainly no Minister - likes to be told that their plans might be misguided or their beliefs misconceived.
So how does the duty to 'speak truth' arise? What exactly does it mean? How can you be most persuasive? And what should you do when a Minister doesn’t want to listen? These web pages analyse these questions in some detail.
The first set of pages focus on why it can be difficult it can be to speak truth to Ministers, and why it might have become more difficult in recent years:
- Why is it Hard to Speak Truth to Power?
- Why do some Ministers Dislike Challenge?
- Has it become More Difficult to Speak Truth to Power?
- Appraisal Optimism in Project Planning
- Some Examples of Failure to Speak Truth to Power
There are then some hints and tips about:
Last, but not least, we look at
- The Constitutional Position:- The Duties of both Ministers and Officials
- When can you say "No! Minister"? - Or Should You Resign?
- Should Civil Servants be Publicly Accountable?
If you want to read further then you might find these pages interesting:
- Introduction to the Westminster Model of Government - and links to further detail
- Civil Service Accountability, Propriety and Audit
- 2015 Blog - Should Civil Servants be More Accountable to Parliament?