Penny Mordaunt said ministers need to “motivate” the civil service and take responsibility for their “areas”, after being asked about an email, sent to Tory supporters, which accused civil servants of being part of a left-wing “activist blob”.
The email, which was signed by the Home Secretary and sent after the publication of the Illegal Migration Bill, stated: “We tried to stop the small boats crossings without changing our laws.
“But an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party blocked us.”
No 10 quickly sought to distance Suella Braverman from the campaign communication, with the Prime Minister’s press secretary telling reporters on Wednesday: “She did not see, sign off or sanction that email being sent out.”
Her comments came after Conservative former minister Andrew Selous defended the civil service at business questions, describing the language used in the email as “inaccurate and entirely inappropriate”.
He asked for an urgent debate about the “strength of the civil service”, adding: “Does she (Penny Mordaunt) agree with me that while there may be a need for challenging discussions between ministers and officials, the use of generic descriptions like snowflake is unwelcome, inaccurate and entirely inappropriate?”
Ms Mordaunt praised the “wonderful people” working in many Government departments, who are “diligent, who are determined to deliver for the Government of the day and I’m pleased to be able to have the opportunity to put on record our gratitude to them”.
She added: “As ministers we need to take responsibility for what happens in our areas. We need to explain our policies.
“We need to motivate the people that we work with, whether they are in the civil service or organisations we work with, but when there is obstructions to that happening, clearly, there’s a civil service code and that needs to be dealt with.
“I repeat the Home Secretary has distanced herself from those sorts of comments.”
“He described how he and his colleagues, in his words, are demoralised and tired and being demonised and blamed by ministers when they’re serving the country as best they can without exception, whatever their personal views on Government policy.
“So in light of the Home Secretary’s outrageous email to Conservative Party supporters, does the Leader of the House agree with me that political attacks on the integrity of the civil service are never acceptable?”
Ms Mordaunt reiterated that her appreciation for the civil service and its work, saying that it “should give people confidence that this is a view that is shared across all sides of this House”.
She added: “I would just say to her though, if we wish to provide that reassurance that that is the case, that civil servants are respected and their contribution is valued, then it is not helpful to attribute those remarks that she alludes to to the Home Secretary.
“The Home Secretary has very clearly said that those were not her remarks, she did not approve those remarks, and I know that she would want me to put on record her thanks to all those in her department and the agencies that work with them.”