A move overseen by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the head of the Home Civil Service, will prevent civil servants from talking to journalists without approval.
Heywood is also known as ‘Sir Cover-Up’ for preventing the Chilcot inquiry into Iraq War
The Mail Online reports: A ban on civil servants talking to journalists without prior ministerial approval will ‘intimidate’ them into silence, critics said last night.
The Civil Service Code has been revised, with the threat that officials could be sacked if they speak out before checking with a minister.
A line has been added to the code, saying: ‘Ensure you have ministerial authorisation for any contact with the media.’
As well as raising concerns about the transparency of government, there are fears the revision could dissuade whistleblowers from coming forward – meaning scandals could go undetected.
The move, which follows a similar clampdown on members of the armed forces talking to the media, has been overseen by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Head of the Home Civil Service.
He has been nicknamed ‘Sir Cover-Up’ for preventing the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War from seeing letters and records of phone calls between Tony Blair and George Bush.
His influence is such that David Cameron is said to have once joked: ‘Remind me, Jeremy, do you work for me or do I work for you?’
A source at the Cabinet Office – which is in charge of the Civil Service – insisted the move was an attempt to increase ministers’ accountability of civil servants in their department. Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, promised to ensure that the right of whistleblowers would be maintained.
But Dave Penman of the FDA union, which represents Whitehall officials, said the move was an ‘unnecessary, unworkable and unjustified restriction’.