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Disciplinary Code

Volume 177: debated on Monday 23 July 1990

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To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he has recently reviewed the civil service disciplinary code.

Can my right hon. Friend tell me how the civil service disciplinary code works when, as appears to be the case with the Public Health Laboratory Service, bad advice is given to a Minister whereby a whole industry —in that case, the egg industry—suffers grievous damage? From my investigations, published recently in a book entitled "Chickengate", I found that most of the cases on which the Public Health Laboratory Service's evidence was based were wrongly interpreted and that poor hygiene was responsible for the salmonella, as it is today when cases of salmonella are increasing despite the slaughter more than a million chickens. How is the Public Health Laboratory Service to be held accountable for giving Ministers very bad advice?

At the end of the day, Ministers are accountable for the policies and actions in their area of responsibility and that principle should not be undermined. However, if a civil servant has broken a rule or performed incompetently, the disciplinary code exists and appropriate action can be taken.