FDA General Secretary Dave Penman was interviewed on yesterday evening's The World Tonight programme on Radio 4, discussing the freedom of opinions for civil servants on issues such as the EU Referendum.
Following former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) John Longworth stepping down from his role after stating his view that Britain should leave the EU, and guidelines on how to discuss the referendum being published by the Cabinet Office and
the Charity Commission, presenter Ritula Shah asked how freely people in high-profile roles should be allowed to voice their opinion.
Penman's response was that "the question is about individuals and their responsibilities… The BCC had a very particular policy position of neutrality on this issue.
"As the Director General, if [Longworth] expresses an individual and personal position, it is very difficult to separate that from the organisation that he is the key individual representing.
"For my members as civil servants, they face a dilemma where they're supporting the Government of the day but in some cases individual Ministers are able to take a personal position opposed to the Government's position.
"There are rules, issued last week, which provide guidance to Ministers and provide guidance to civil servants about what they can and cannot do.
"So I think it really is about the circumstances and responsibilities of the individual rather than being a free-for-all for everyone.
"Inevitably with something like the EU Referendum we have polarised debate around this and that includes whether people are free to speak or not."
Hear the full interview:
BBC Radio 4 The World Tonight: 9 March 2016
(Starts 24 minutes, 15 seconds into the programme)
Penman's interview was also covered by Civil Service World:
EU referendum: Civil servants “face dilemma” over vote, says FDA union chief Dave Penman