Priti Patel expected to be cleared of bullying by Cabinet Office inquiry

Guardian report

Secretive investigation condemned - but home secretary still to face Rutnam at employment tribunal.

Priti Patel is expected to be cleared this week of bullying senior civil servants in three separate government departments, Whitehall sources have confirmed.

Priti Patel. Credit Ground News

The home secretary had been accused of breaching the ministerial code by mistreating staff at the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for International Trade.

She is still to face claims from her former Home Office permanent secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam, who is using whistleblowing laws to take her to an employment tribunal for constructive dismissal.

Reports of her impending clearance have prompted condemnation of the Cabinet Office inquiry process, which is conducted in secret and offers no recourse for complainants. Boris Johnson has already been criticised for compromising the process by insisting, before the inquiry had concluded, that he would continue to support Patel.

Dave Penman, the head of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, including Rutnam, said the cabinet inquiry process should be reviewed.

“It tells you everything that is wrong with investigations under the ministerial code that a process which is not written down, which contains no rights for those who might complain, that is determined in secret, alone by a prime minister who has already pledged his allegiance to the minister in advance, and which allows no right to transparency or challenge for anyone who complained, would then be leaked on the evening before the home secretary is due to appear before the home affairs select committee,” he said.

Informed sources said on Tuesday that Patel, the MP for Witham, is on the verge of being officially cleared. The Cabinet Office inquiry was conducted by Helen MacNamara, the propriety and ethics director general, and Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests.


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