Failure to publish Patel bullying report is damaging public trust, warns standards watchdog

Committee on Standards in Public Life chair says allegations of bullying at the Home Office need to be seen to have been “properly and independently investigated”
Priti Patel PA

By Jim Dunton

12 Nov 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s official adviser on ethics and standards has warned that the government’s failure to reveal the results of an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Priti Patel risks damaging public trust.

Lord Jonathan Evans, who is chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said he was not aware of the findings of the investigation into the home secretary’s alleged behaviour prompted by the dramatic resignation of Home Office perm sec Sir Philip Rutnam earlier this year.

But speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme yesterday, Evans said the public needed to know that the allegations had been “properly and independently investigated”. 

Boris Johnson is ultimately responsible for deciding what to do with the details of the investigation, conducted under then cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill – who left office two months ago. 

Evans said there may be good reasons for some details in the report to be held back, and cited ongoing litigation in a reference Rutnam’s pending employment tribunal . But he said any reasons for delay in publishing the review’s findings needed to be explained.

“Because they are left hanging in the air people are worried about it and that tends to reduce people's trust,” Evans said of the Patel investigation.

He added that Johnson was in an “invidious” position in that he had responsibility for triggering reviews such as the one conducted into the Patel allegations – but would also have to deal with any political fallout from their findings.

Evans went on to say that there was a case for taking the responsibility for triggering inquiries into ministerial conduct away from the prime minister and making it more independent and transparent.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an independent non-departmental public body that was set up in 1994 in response to widespread allegaions of sleaze and poor conduct in public life. Its first chair was Lord Michael Nolan.

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