Priti Patel: FDA union loses court challenge over PM’s decision to back home

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The FDA union has lost a High Court challenge over Boris Johnson’s decision to back Priti Patel following accusations that she bullied staff.

The prime minister decided last year that the home secretary did not breach the ministerial code by bullying members of her team.

This was despite an investigation by the then independent adviser on the ministerial code, Sir Alex Allan, concluding that Ms Patel had bullied civil servants across several government departments, including by shouting and swearing at them.

Home Secretary Priti Patel arriving in Downing Street, London, to attend a Cabinet meeting ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons. Picture date: Wednesday October 27, 2021.
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Home Secretary Priti Patel Ms Patel has previously issued a statement issuing an ‘unreserved, fulsome apology’ for any events which occurred

The FDA union – which represents the UK’s senior civil servants – brought a legal challenge over the PM deciding to overrule his independent adviser on the matter to protect the home secretary.

Making their case that Mr Johnson’s decision to back Ms Patel was the wrong one, the FDA pointed out the PM’s own words in the ministerial code’s foreword which state that “there will be no bullying and no harassment”.

But on Monday, Lord Justice Lewis concluded in a ruling at the High Court that the PM had not “misdirected himself” as to the provisions of the ministerial code when reaching his decision to support the home secretary.

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said: “The judgement today represents a clear rejection of the idea that there are different standards for ministers than for civil servants.”

The original Whitehall probe into Ms Patel’s actions was launched in March 2020, with the prime minister asking the Cabinet Office to “establish the facts” over whether the home secretary had breached the ministerial code.

Under the code, government ministers are ordered to be “professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect”.

“Working relationships, including with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff should be proper and appropriate,” it adds.

“Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the ministerial code and will not be tolerated.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the media briefing in Downing Street
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said he would ‘stick with Prit’

Sir Alex’s report concluded that Ms Patel’s approach “amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying” and that she had “not consistently met the high standards expected of her”.

But the PM reinforced the home secretary’s comment that any such actions were unintentional and said the code had therefore not been broken.

Ms Patel has previously issued a statement issuing an “unreserved, fulsome apology” for any events which occurred, adding that there were “no excuses” for it.

Sir Alex resigned as the PM’s independent adviser on ministerial standards in November 2020



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