Head of the civil service defends being part of all-male private members’ club

The head of the civil service has defended being part of a central London private members’ club that excludes women.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case suggested to MPs it was “easier” to reform the all-male organisation “from within rather than chuck rocks from the outside”.

His comments come after The Guardian said it had published the Garrick Club’s membership list, which it claimed included the King, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and Sir Richard Moore, the head of MI6.

While giving evidence to the Commons Liaison Sub-Committee of Strategic Thinking in Government on Tuesday, Mr Case was asked by Labour MP Liam Byrne whether he could “foster a genuine culture of inclusiveness” in the civil service “while being a member of an all-male club”.

Mr Case said: “I have to say, my position on this one is clear, if you believe profoundly in reform of an institution, by and large it is easier to do if you join it and make the change from within rather than chuck rocks from the outside.

“And by the way, maths is also part of this.

“Every one person who leaves who is in favour of fixing this antediluvian position, every one of us who leaves means these institutions don’t change.

“I think when you want reform you have to participate.”

He added: “I’m very sure I speak on behalf of all the public servants who have recently joined the Garrick under the banner of trying to make reform happen.”

The Garrick Club
The Garrick Club in London (PA)

Mr Case, who works closely with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, stepped back from his Cabinet Secretary duties in October because of a medical matter, before returning to work in January.

Before being appointed Cabinet Secretary by former prime minister Boris Johnson in 2020, Mr Case served as private secretary to the then Prince of Wales.

Chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin asked committee member Sir Robert Buckland if he wanted to “declare an interest”, as the Conservative former justice secretary was named as one of the Garrick’s 1,500 or so members.

“Yes I do, and I do so,” said Sir Robert.

As well as Sir Robert and Mr Case, The Guardian reported that the club, near Leicester Square, counts among its members Tories including Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Others said to be members include Succession star Brian Cox, former England men’s football manager Roy Hodgson and Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler.