Priti Patel tight-lipped on ‘completed’ probe into bullying claims

Home secretary refuses to endorse publication of Cabinet Office report into allegations about her treatment of staff
Sir Philip Rutnam and Priti Patel PA

By Jim Dunton

15 Sep 2020

Home secretary Priti Patel has refused to say whether she supports the publication of a Cabinet Office investigation into allegations of bullying in her department that prompted the resignation of her most senior civil servant.

Former Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam has lodged an employment tribunal claim against Patel. He quit in February, alleging that he had been the victim of "a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign" by allies of the home secretary.

Prime minister Boris Johnson ordered an internal review into Patel’s conduct after further allegations that she had previously bullied staff while working in two other government departments. Patel rejected all the claims.

Patel was quizzed about the Cabinet Office investigation into her conduct at the end of an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. The home secretary was repeatedly asked whether she supported the publication of the report’s findings, but did not answer the question directly.

Patel said publication of the review, initiated six months ago, was “a matter for the Cabinet Office” that she couldn’t comment further on.

“I’ve complied in every single way in which I’ve been asked to do so,” she said. “There is a process behind this which sits with the Cabinet Office and I can’t comment any further than that because this is a Cabinet Office procedure.”

Asked whether she would apologise if the review asked her to, Patel gave fundamentally the same response.

“That is subject to a Cabinet Office procedure and discussions with them, but that’s not something I’m party to right now,” she said.

Although Patel suggested the outcome of the review had not been shared with her, the Daily Telegraph reported in April that the investigation was complete and the home secretary had been cleared of bullying her staff.

It quoted a Whitehall source saying: “They trawled through lots of material but found no evidence.”

FDA general secretary Dave Penman, whose union represents Rutnam, said at the time that the report demonstrated “everything that is wrong with investigations under the ministerial code”.

The Labour Party has also called for the findings of the review into Patel’s conduct to be made public.

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