POLITICS

Government Agency Tells Staff Not To Mark Armistice Day In Work Time If It Conflicts With Duties

09/11/2015 11:31 GMT | Updated 09/11/2015 15:59 GMT
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives during the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. The annual service is to remember those who have lost their lives serving in the Armed Forces. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Ministers have ordered a Government agency to revoke advice suggesting staff should not take time out of work to mark the two minutes silence on Armistice Day this week.

Staff at the new Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which is part of the Department of Transport, had been advised that where the 11am ceremony clashes with a driving test, ‘the test should not be compromised’ and employees should make ‘alternative arrangements’ in their own time.

The guidance, obtained by the HuffPost UK, sparked a backlash among driving examiners and other staff as it breaches years of tradition of respecting the silence to mark the dead in all wars in which Britain has fought.

Armistice Day has been marked on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ever since the end of the First World War in 1918.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and his team have now stepped in to order the removal of the guidance.

Transport Minister Lord Ahmad told HuffPost UK: "Remembering on Armistice Day those who sacrificed so much is hugely important. We encourage all parts of society to take part in remembering those who gave their lives to defend us."

The DVSA, which oversees all driving tests and MOTs, was created last year by merging the Driving Standards Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency as part of the efficiency drive by the Government.

The controversial guidance, posted to the DVSA News section of the staff intranet, was titled “Advice for operational staff”

“Driver side: You’re invited to take part and, where necessary, to make arrangements based on your location and those around you. However, where the time conflicts with a driving test, the test should not be compromised and alternative arrangements should be made for you to mark this occasion.

“Vehicle side: You’re also invited to take part in the remembrance where possible and practical – making your own arrangements based on your location and others around you.”

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union told HuffPost UK: "Examiners are furious about this.

“We've formally requested that the instruction be revoked and for an apology to be issued to staff. This is a decades-long tradition and there can't be a driving test candidate in the land who would object."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: "Ministers have conveyed the importance of Armistice Day to the officials responsible and the guidance has been removed from the website. Driving examiners are encouraged to engage in an act of remembrance on Wednesday."

And DVSA Director of Operations, Kevin Kidman, told HuffPost: "We are fully supportive of any member of staff who wishes to mark Armistice Day".

The Royal British Legion says that "when 11 November (Armistice Day) falls on days other than Sundays, Remembrance should be brought into the everyday life of the nation on those days as well".

"In 2015 Armistice Day falls mid week on a Wednesday and is after Remembrance Sunday," the Legion says.

"The Royal British Legion will host its Silence in the Square event in Trafalgar Square, London to remember all those lost in conflict at 11.11.11 and will broadcast a live webcast from the event."