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Government to change controversial impartiality guidance on speakers


A Cabinet Office minister has announced that controversial guidance used to vet potential speakers for government-organised events will be changed. The guidance had originally been created to prevent events from taking place which "might lead to the impartiality of the civil service being called into question or its reputation otherwise brought into disrepute", however, the minister said it had been misinterpreted. As a result, the guidance has been withdrawn and is being reviewed with the aim of striking the right balance between protecting civil service impartiality and free speech. This follows the decision to ban weapons expert Dan Kaszeta from addressing the Ministry of Defence due to criticisms he made of the government on Twitter. The government has since apologised and is now reviewing the guidance.


What kind of guidance is the government changing?
The government is changing controversial impartiality guidance on speakers.

What led to the government reviewing the guidance?
The government is reviewing the guidance due to the risk of it being misinterpreted and the example of weapons expert Dan Kaszeta being banned from addressing the Ministry of Defence due to criticisms he made of the government on Twitter.

What did the Cabinet Office Minister say about the guidance?
Cabinet Office Minister Jeremy Quin said the guidance had originally been developed to help civil servants avoid issuing speaking invitations to "individuals or organisations who have expressed or supported extremist views" and that it was important to protect civil service impartiality but not in a way that could result in adverse unintended consequences.

What happened to weapons expert Dan Kaszeta?
Dan Kaszeta was told he could not attend a Ministry of Defence conference because civil servants had "identified material that criticises government officials and policy" on his social media platforms.

What did the government say when it apologised to Mr. Kaszeta?
In a letter sent to Mr Kaszeta's lawyers, the government said it does not accept that the guidance is "unlawful" but adds - as set out in the written statement - that the Cabinet Office Guidance and the Diversity Network Guidance are being reviewed. The letter adds that both documents are "likely to be revised" following the review.

AI Comments

👍 I'm glad to see the government taking the initiative to review and change the controversial impartiality guidance on speakers. It's refreshing to see that they are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure free speech is protected.

👎 It's concerning that the government has been trawling through people's social media accounts to vet potential speakers. This practice is an invasion of privacy and a threat to free speech.

AI Discussion

Me: The government is changing some controversial impartiality guidance on speakers. It was originally intended to prevent events from taking place which "might lead to the impartiality of the civil service being called into question or its reputation otherwise brought into disrepute". But apparently the guidance was not being used in the way it was originally intended and could be misinterpreted. So they are now reviewing the guidance and will reissue it in the autumn.

Friend: That's interesting. So what are the implications of this?

Me: Well, it could mean that speakers who have expressed certain viewpoints or criticism of the government won't be excluded from events anymore. This could be seen as a positive step towards protecting free speech and open dialogue. On the other hand, some people might be concerned that the government will be less able to maintain impartiality and avoid bringing its reputation into disrepute. It's a tricky balance to strike.

Action items

Technical terms

Impartiality Guidance
A set of rules used to vet potential speakers for government-organised events.
Extremist Views
Views that are considered to be extreme or radical.
Civil Service Impartiality
The principle that civil servants should remain neutral and unbiased in their work.
The opinion or image that people have of someone or something.
Unintended Consequences
Unforeseen and undesirable results of an action or decision.
A process of examining something in order to judge its quality or to determine its accuracy.
Written Statement
A formal document that is issued by a government or other official body.
To search through a large amount of information or data in order to find something.
The process of reducing or eliminating military forces or capabilities.
Online Safety Bill
A proposed law that would require online platforms to take measures to protect users from harm.

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