PM set to reveal results of Priti Patel bullying inquiry
Written by on 20 November 2020
Boris Johnson is set to reveal the conclusions of an inquiry into bullying allegations against Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Sources with knowledge of the situation told Sky News the home secretary is unlikely to be sacked and will not be issued with a formal warning.
However, the prime minister could force her to apologise when he delivers his verdict on Ms Patel’s conduct later.
Sky News understands the conclusions could be published as soon as this morning.
According to reports, Ms Patel was found to have failed to meet the requirement to treat civil servants with respect and consideration.
Normally ministers are expected to resign if they breach the code, however the prime minister is expected to point to a finding that her conduct was “unintentional”.
Priti Patel is ‘courteous and kind’
Senior Conservatives have offered their support to Ms Patel ahead of the findings being made public.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News’ Kay Burley on Friday morning: “I haven’t seen the report but I do know what my experience of working closely with the home secretary is.
“And the experience that I’ve always had working with her has been that she’s nothing but courteous in getting the job done.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss posted on Twitter: “She is a great person – compassionate, determined, hard working and professional.”
And Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, called Ms Patel a “formidable” home secretary and an “asset to government”.
Labour, meanwhile, has accused Mr Johnson of presiding over a “cover-up” after it emerged that a fact-finding report into her behaviour will not be made public.
Instead, Mr Johnson is expected to release an assessment of its findings by his adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan.
According to The Times, he concluded: “My advice is that the home secretary has not always met the high standards of the code in treating civil servants with respect.
“Instances would meet the definition of bullying. To that extent her behaviour has been in breach of the ministerial code even if unintentional.”
The newspaper said Sir Alex was also critical of some civil servants in the Home Office, saying they had not always been as “flexible” as they could have been in “responding to the home secretary’s requests and directions”.
Timeline: How the bullying allegations row unfolded
- 21 February: It emerges the home secretary has been accused of bullying over her alleged treatment of her department’s most senior civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam
- 29 February: Sir Philip resigns and accuses Ms Patel of spearheading a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him. Sir Philip also revealed he had received allegations of Ms Patel “shouting and swearing, belittling people” and “making unreasonable and repeated demands”
- 2 March: A union boss who represents civil servants tells Sir Mark Sedwill, the head of the civil service, that an investigation into the bullying allegations must be held
- 3 March: The government announces the Cabinet Office will investigate the bullying claims
- 4 March: Boris Johnson says he is sticking by Ms Patel who he had earlier called a “fantastic” minister
- 6 March: Nearly 100 people who have worked with Ms Patel launch a public defence of her
- 20 April: Sir Philip Rutnam formally launches legal action against the government claiming “constructive dismissal”
- 29 April: Labour calls for investigation to results to be made public as soon as possible amid reports the home secretary has been cleared
- 20 November: Labour demands publication of the full inquiry findings after Ms Patel was found to have broken the ministerial code. The party also accuses the prime minister of a cover-up after it emerged the fact-finding report will not be made public
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for the immediate publication of the full Cabinet Office findings.
He said Labour had “lost confidence in the process”, with allegations against Ms Patel having first emerged in February.
“These revelations could not be more serious,” he added.
“This has all the hallmarks of a cover-up from the prime minister and raises fundamental questions about his judgment.
“His actions are all but condoning bullying in the workplace. In any other area of life this would not be acceptable. Yet again, it seems to be one rule for them and another for everyone else.
“The report needs to be published in full immediately and both the prime minister and home secretary must come before parliament to answer questions on this mess.”
February: Sir Philip Rutnam – ‘I don’t believe Priti Patel’
A Cabinet Office investigation was launched in March over allegations that Ms Patel belittled colleagues and clashed with senior officials in three different departments.
It followed the resignation of the Home Office’s permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam, who accused Ms Patel of a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.
Ms Patel has expressed concern at the “false” claims, and allies have described her as a “demanding” boss but not a bully.
A government spokesman said: “The process is ongoing and the prime minister will make any decision on the matter public once the process has concluded.”