Trawl guests' social media for 'extremism' and criticism of government policy, Rees-Mogg tells civil servants

15 August 2022, 10:57 | Updated: 15 August 2022, 11:01

Jacob Rees-Mogg has told civil servants to search guests' social media profiles
Jacob Rees-Mogg has told civil servants to search guests' social media profiles. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Jacob Rees-Mogg has ordered civil servants to scour social media accounts of guest speakers in order to spot "extremists" and criticism of government policy.

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The new Cabinet Office rules say managers should look at social profiles of visitors taking part in "learning and development" events.

The rules, introduced last week, say bosses should look at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn posts from up to five years ago to find "potentially problematic or controversial material that may contravene civil service values".

The rules say managers should also be on the look out for content showing "strong political partiality".

Read more: 'Consumers won't pay a penny more': Keir Starmer reveals Labour's £29 billion emergency cost of living plan

Read more: Rees-Mogg demands probe into civil servants on ‘flexitime’ deals

A colleague of Mr Rees-Mogg told the Financial Times there had been "far too many examples recently where essentially extremist speakers have been invited to speak to civil servants and staff networks".

Allies of the Brexit opportunities minister reportedly welcomed the new measures, branding them "very sensible".

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told LBC: "This guidance was introduced to ensure there is a proper process for inviting speakers to talk to civil servants in the Cabinet Office, as the public rightly expects.

"We take a zero tolerance approach to discriminatory behaviour and this process will help prevent anyone with a history of such comments from being invited.

"All guidance we issue is in line with the principle of impartiality, as set out in the Civil Service code."

The spokesperson added that individuals searching social media accounts would themselves be bound by general civil service rules around impartiality, and those who are found to have criticised government policy would not be automatically banned from making appearances.

Mr Rees-Mogg says civil servants should check historic social media posts made by guests
Mr Rees-Mogg says civil servants should check historic social media posts made by guests. Picture: Getty

There was embarrassment for the government two months ago when anti-Boris Johnson tweets from the new cost of living tsar emerged hours after he was appointed.

David Buttress called for Mr Johnson to resign over the partygate scandal.

"Why is it that the worst people often rise to the highest office and stay there?" He wrote.

"Boris has to go, he just has to."

Watch: Rachel Johnson blasts Liz Truss over cost-of-living plan - 'Where is the detail?!'

The Welshman also said the Tories were 'damaging' for his country and accused Mr Johnson of having no "intelligence or integrity", as well as criticising the government's refugee strategy.

Mr Buttress apologised to the Prime Minister after his appointment.

Caller 'really worried' that Rees-Mogg is Truss's most vocal supporter

Mr Rees-Mogg has recently taken aim at the civil service's use of 'flexitime'.

The deal allows civil servants to choose their hours as long as they reach the working week of 37.5 hours.

The minister of government efficiency ordered a review of the scheme after the Telegraph reported civil servants boasted of going to the gym and skipping the office on Fridays without oversight from management.

Read more: Schools hold 'crisis talks' to consider three-day weeks as teacher salaries and soaring energy bills cripple budgets

Read more: 'No room for a nanny' as Kate and Will downsize to Windsor cottage

Mr Rees-Mogg said there is a "culture of wastefulness" in Whitehall that he wants to address.

"Working around others is good for everyone and will mean more job satisfaction for civil servants," he said last week.

"That is why I am asking the Cabinet Office to report on the extent of flexitime and asking Secretaries of State to do the same in their departments."

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