An inquiry into allegations that the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel bullied staff has found that she broke the ministerial code, sources told the UK’s mainstream media on Thursday.
A Cabinet Office inquiry was launched nine months ago after senior civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam quit the Home Office in February and alleged that Patel “created fear” in the department.
Rutnam is suing for unfair dismissal, while Patel denies allegations of bullying.
The report by Sir Alex Allan, Whitehall’s independent adviser on standards, has not been published, but sources close to the investigation indicated it could be released as early as Friday.
One insider said Patel had “not met the requirements of the ministerial code to treat civil servants with consideration and respect,” the BBC reported.
The ministerial code is an official government document setting out the conduct expected of ministers. “Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code and will not be tolerated,” the code states.
The code is not legally binding, and the final decision on ministers’ conduct rests with the prime minister.
As well as the Home Office, Patel is reportedly under investigation for her conduct at the departments of International Development and Work and Pensions.
It is reported that Patel will likely be handed only a written warning and request for an apology, rather than a demand for her resignation.
Dave Penman, head of the FDA union for civil servants, warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson risked sending out the message that “a little bit of bullying is ok” if Patel was found guilty by the inquiry and not properly disciplined.
The opposition also weighed in on reports of the inquiry findings. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said “the revelations could not be more serious” and findings should be published in full. He added that both Johnson and Patel “must come before Parliament to answer questions on this mess.”
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