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Civil Servants (Immunity)

Volume 86: debated on Thursday 7 November 1985

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asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on his policy regarding civil servants' immunity from prosecution for small scale theft or fraud at work.

I welcome the opportunity to correct the false impression which may have been given recently that civil servants are to enjoy a special immunity front prosecution for criminal offences.The new draft disciplinary guidelines which have been drawn up pay particular regard to the Public Accounts Committee's criticisms in 1984 of the Property Services Agency's handling of fraud cases, as requested by Ministers. These guidelines are still at the consultative stage. They are emphaticallly not seeking to confer any special immunity on civil servants. Rather their aim is to speed up the handling of disciplinary cases by Departments and bring Civil Service procedures more into line with those in the private sector. To this end there is provision for Departments, where appropriate, to handle very minor cases of theft or deception without involving the police. As in the private sector, it may in some circumstances be better for Departments to deal with the matter expeditiously themselves rather than institute lengthy criminal proceedings at high cost to the taxpayer. This would also allow Departments if necessary to change systems promptly to prevent a recurrence.