Esther McVey pledges to ban rainbow lanyards in the Civil Service

Ms McVey has launched a crackdown on 'woke' state spending
Ms McVey has launched a crackdown on 'woke' state spending - MARTYN WHEATLEY/I-IMAGES

Rainbow lanyards are to be banned in the Civil Service, Esther McVey has announced.

The minister for common sense warned mandarins they should not try to express political views “by the back door” through rainbow-coloured lanyards that are worn to demonstrate support for LGBT rights.

Ms McVey said the Government would instead introduce a standard design for all Whitehall and departmental staff to show a commitment to “delivering for the citizens of the UK”.

Rainbow lanyards were banned by the Scottish Parliament in March over concerns that the design could lead to accusations of bias.

In a speech for the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, Ms McVey said: “We want work to be a happy, inclusive place, not one where division can be sowed and people feel pressured. I want a very simple but visible change to occur too.

“The lanyards worn to carry security passes shouldn’t be a random pick and mix, they should be a standard design reflecting that we are all members of the Government, delivering for the citizens of the UK.

“Working in the Civil Service is all about leaving your political views at the building entrance. Trying to introduce them by the back door via lanyards should not happen.”

Asked what would happen if a civil servant turned up with a Palestinian flag or a rainbow lanyard, Ms McVey replied: “Why would you wear that lanyard? The Civil Service is not political. You don’t need political activism in a visible way.”


Pressed on whether there would be a consequence for staff who flouted the new rules, she said: “That would be for the permanent secretary to do, she believes people will comply, and of course we will have provided the new lanyards so people can wear them.

“But as I said, people need to think to themselves why they would be doing that rather than promoting where they work.”

Ms McVey’s announcement comes after The Telegraph revealed that Civil Service diversity jobs will also be banned as part of her crackdown on “woke” state spending, meaning there will no longer be any jobs in Whitehall devoted solely to diversity.

Managers will be banned from hiring third-party diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) contractors, while officials whose roles focus on diversity will be transferred elsewhere with broader remits.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, said he was “fully supportive” of Ms McVey’s plans, while Elliot Keck, head of campaigns at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: “Esther McVey deserves praise for tackling the DEI leviathan seemingly single-handedly.

“And she’s absolutely right to get rid of politicised lanyards, which do little other than cause controversy, while costing taxpayers more.”

Ms McVey insisted her party had “absolutely been conservative enough” during its time in office but went on to accuse Rishi Sunak’s predecessors of being in hock to “religious-type zealtory”.

“Thank goodness the prime minister has stopped the race to gold-plated net zero and started to view energy through the lens of pragmatism and cost on the public.”

Rainbow lanyards were banned by the Scottish Parliament in March over concerns the design could lead to accusations of bias
Rainbow lanyards were banned by the Scottish Parliament in March over concerns the design could lead to accusations of bias - THOMAS FAULL/ISTOCKPHOTO

“He is the first political leader to stand up to the religious-type zealotry which has consumed politicians and the state sector, with a tiny minority of extremists like Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion exerting way too much sway on the energy agenda.”

Praising Mr Sunak for having “reset the dial” on the issue by delaying a ban on petrol and diesel cars by five years, the minister said previous political leaders were “caught up in the ideology” of green activists.

“They’d been setting timelines that would just seem to be politically sort of pulled out, I’d say, from a figure in the air. Why 2030 and not 2035? We look at security, affordability and reliability as being the key thing… Labour are trying to race to a date they cannot achieve.”

Ms McVey also hailed the Mr Sunak as an “intellectual giant” in response to an audience question which claimed there was a dearth of impressive thinkers in Tory ranks.

And responding to criticisms of the Government’s crackdown on visas for foreign students, she said: “So big are these cuts to the immigration numbers he has made, universities are now complaining that their finances are being stretched due to the severity of the reductions in international students they are seeing.

“I have no sympathy. For too long, these universities have been selling immigration to international students, rather than an education, and the PM has been right to put a stop to that.”

Last year, Mr Sunak banned overseas students other than those doing PhD research work from bringing dependants to join them in the UK.

Ms McVey was appointed as a Cabinet Office minister without portfolio at Mr Sunak’s reshuffle in November in an olive branch to the Right of the party following the sacking of Suella Braverman as home secretary.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of universities, led a backlash to Ms McVey’s remarks about student visas.

He said: “International students are hugely valued as part of our university community, not only for their overwhelming contribution to our local and national economies, but also their significant social and cultural benefits – including long-lasting soft power on the global stage.

“Placing further restrictions on them doesn’t make economic sense and will have a direct, negative impact on UK students.”

Meanwhile Helen Joyce, director of advocacy at the campaign group Sex Matters, welcomed her move to “acknowledge the degree of ideological capture in the public service”.

“Some staff in the public sector have sought to embed workplace cultures and outward-facing policies that are hostile to sex-based human rights.

“Efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, while well-intentioned, have been co-opted by activists with a fringe agenda”.