Philip Hammond has denied that Foreign Office cleaners who asked for a pay rise were subjected to disciplinary action.
A group of 14 cleaners wrote to the foreign secretary seeking a meeting about being paid the London living wage.
Contractor Interserve told the cleaners they were being investigated for “bringing the contract into disrepute” and enclosed the original letter to Mr Hammond as evidence.
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Hammond said there was a “review” of their conduct, but no further action was taken.
“I have investigated this matter,” the foreign secretary told the Commons today.
“I have confirmation from Interserve that although a review meeting was held, no disciplinary action was taken against any cleaners as a result of writing that letter.
“It has also been reported that some of the people involved in writing that letter were the subject of redundancies – redundancies that were, unfortunately, necessary because the Foreign Office is surrendering the Old Admiralty building as part of our campaign to reduce the estate footprint of government departments and save the taxpayer money.”
Labour's Hilary Benn had challenged his government counterpart to condemn the action.
“Given that a basic freedom is the right of any individual to contact us as elected representatives without fear or favour, will the Right Honourable Gentleman join me in condemning this attempt to intimidate staff for having exercised that right?” the shadow foreign secretary asked.
He added in response to Hammond: “I’m sorry that he didn’t feel able to condemn even the calling of those cleaners to a meeting because it seems to me people should be able to write to whoever they want.”