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Cabinet Split As Grant Shapps Distances Himself From Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Office Working Campaign

today26 April 2022

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Grant Shapps has defended civil servants’ right to work from home, despite his cabinet colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg’s drive to get them back to the office.

The transport secretary said he was “not an absolutist” as he insisted Zoom calls were often “more convenient” than meeting face-to-face.

Government efficiency minister Rees-Mogg sparked a backlash by placing letters on empty desks in his department saying he “looked forward to seeing you in the office very soon”.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries branded his approach “Dickensian” as she insisted civil service productivity was more important than their place of work.

However, Boris Johnson’s spokesman gave his backing to Rees-Mogg, saying the prime minister “supports any initiative that encourages people to return to pre-pandemic working”.

Asked for his views on Times Radio, Shapps said he was “a pragmatist on these things”.

He said: “I’m very conscious that at the DfT [Department for Transport], 1,000 new colleagues have joined since coronavirus.

“Some of those will never have had the opportunity to meet face to face with the people they’re working with every day. So particularly for younger people, having that ability to meet face to face and have the coffee machine conversation is incredibly important.

“But I’m not an absolutist. I think we recognise that some meetings are just faster and more efficient when you can jump on [Zoom] like us right now, for example. We are down the line and it’s just more convenient.

“And I do recognise the importance of departments coming back and the DfT have been fairly enthusiastic about coming back in as well.”

It emerged last week that Rees-Mogg had been going round his department putting letters on empty desks which said: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon. Wish every good wish.”

But Dorries reportedly described the tactic as “Dickensian”.

“Why are we measuring bodies behind desks? Why aren’t we measuring productivity?” she said.

Union leaders have also hit out at Rees-Mogg, with Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA representing senior civil servants, describing it as “vindictive”.

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