Pro-Brexit ministers to be given 'limousine service' by civil servants
Ministers campaigning to leave the European Union will continue to receive a "limousine service" from their officials despite restrictions on information they can receive, the head of the Civil Service has said.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, said the restrictions applied only to material intended to support the arguments for Brexit. Ministers in the "out" camp would continue to receive other Government information in the normal way.
His comments came after the senior civil in the department of Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers - one of five Cabinet Leave campaigners - suggested ministers could be forced to use the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to documents produced by their own officials relating to the EU referendum.
Appearing before the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Sir Jeremy said the bar on official information was limited to "briefing material and speech material".
"We don't think it is appropriate - the Prime Minister doesn't think it is appropriate and I don't either - to provide that material to ministers who want to argue against the Government's position so that they can make that case against the Government. That's the material that is being denied to them," he said.
"All the other material that they need to run their departments, to answer parliamentary questions to handle European business that is not related to the question, normal EU business - of course we will continue to provide the usual limousine services."
His comments were welcomed by the committee chairman and out campaigner - Tory MP Bernard Jenkin - who previously strongly criticised the denial of official information to ministers on the "out" side.
"This sounds much more reasonable and I very much welcome that," he said.
Earlier, appearing before the same committee, Northern Ireland Office permanent secretary Sir Jonathan Stephens was challenged over Ms Villiers' access to papers.
Asked whether he would withhold information bearing on the referendum which 10 Downing Street or the Cabinet Office had asked her department to produce, he said: "Yes. That information is to be used to support the policy of the government of the day."
Ministers campaigning for the UK to leave the EU were "operating in a personal capacity and in that respect, if they put in a freedom of information request or a parliamentary question, that will be answered, but they won't be receiving the support of the Civil Service", Sir Jonathan told the MPs.