The Lib Dem minister and the carefully annotated 500-page document that was shredded by mistake

It’s Friday, so it must be time to read Civil Service World, which sounds like one of those publications they feature at the end of “Have I got news for you?”. (Baroness) Lindsay Northover tells the magazine about her experiences of working with civil servants, while serving as a whip in the coalition government. Lindsay is very complimentary, in the main, about civil servants. She tells of one of the challenges of coalition government:

Although the top of the civil service had thought about what was required in coalition government, this thinking did not always permeate through the system. So I found some civil servants assumed that if Conservative ministers (in the majority, of course) had agreed something, then that meant the government as a whole had done so. That was a learning curve for all of us.

At the end of the Q&A, Lindsay is asked to tell a story “that reveals something about the civil service”, and this is it:

I spent one weekend going through a 500-page document in detail, scribbling comments on it for a colleague. I asked for this to be photocopied. I came back expecting to have the original and the copy, only to be told my original had instead been shredded, as the person to whom I had entrusted it to decided that it surely must be rubbish because of all the scribbles on it…

You can read the full Q&A here.

* News Meerkat - keeping a look-out for Liberal Democrat news. Meerkat photo by Paul Walter

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3 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 21st Aug '15 - 7:02pm

    Unlicky, but untypical of the civil service who file everything obsessively.

  • Bryan Morton 21st Aug '15 - 9:51pm

    Have to agree with Richard. My experience of the civil service would suggest that there are more issues around people not shredding documents that should have been, rather than the other way around…

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Aug '15 - 7:31pm

    Bryan Morton 21st Aug ’15 – 9:51pm
    On reflection a cynical view is emerging from the merely careful. So ask for an electronic ciopy of the document. Make comments using the computer facilities which have been used for replies to MPs for well over a decade. Wonder aloud whether anyone could have a motive for this unfortunate destruction.

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