Why, after 12 years of Conservative government, are civil servants being told not to say ‘women and girls’?

Nov 22, 2022 by

by Henry Hill, Conservative Home:

What to make of recent reports, in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere, about staff at the Ministry of Justice being warned off using ‘transphobic’ language such as “protecting women and girls”?

At first glance, civil servants appear to be being ordered to avoid using what seems perfectly ordinary language, in order to uphold a very particular view of what it means to be an “active trans ally”. But read to the end, and we come to this fascinating quotation from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS):

“This guidebook was published by a staff network, its content was not approved prior to being communicated and it is a network rather than a corporate HMPPS view. Following its publication, HMPPS is reviewing the rules around internal communications to staff from network groups.”

So was this just a communication from a non-managerial ‘network group’, whatever that is? Yet it apparently came from the Prison Service’s diversity and inclusion team, which is a very real part of the HR hierarchy in many workplaces. The email was also marked ‘Official Sensitive’, yet the Prison Service claims that it was not official. So was that misuse of the official designation? An honest mistake?

This ambiguity matters because of another bit of ambiguous language in the email itself: “Whilst passing uses of these phrases might not be considered misconduct, the importance of challenging their use cannot be overstated.”

‘Might not be considered misconduct’ is so lightly coded as to be barely coded. But how seriously employees took the implicit warning would obviously depend on whether this was an official communication from the HR hierarchy or a (mislabelled) campaigning email from a peer ‘network’.

Either way, it seems unlikely that this was signed off by a minister. And whilst Civil Service HR have autonomy when it comes to hiring and firing, it seems likely that Dominic Raab could have this advice withdrawn if he called in the appropriate people and so directed them.

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