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Fri, 27 November 2020

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By Lord Garnier
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Labour Says Priti Patel's Conduct Should Be Investigated By The Independent Standards Committee

Labour Says Priti Patel's Conduct Should Be Investigated By The Independent Standards Committee
3 min read

Bullying claims involving the Home Secretary Priti Patel should be investigated by the independent standards committee after the government’s own report into her behavior was allegedly sat on for months, Labour has said.

It has been reported that Boris Johnson is not expected to sack Ms Patel, despite her allegedly breaking the ministerial code following a nine month review into her conduct at three different Whitehall departments. 

Ms Patel has consistently denied claims that she mistreated staff. 

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has written to the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, urging it to investigate the conduct of Patel itself and allegations that the Prime Minister interfered with the investigation into the issue by delaying its release. 

Thomas-Symonds said: “These are deeply serious revelations and have all the hallmarks of a cover up from the Prime Minister.   

“We have lost faith in the government’s ability to investigate this issue and are calling on the Committee to urgently investigate.  While both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary must come before Parliament to answer questions on this mess.” 

Earlier this year the Home Office’s former permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam made an explosive public statement, accusing her of an orchestrated briefing campaign against him. The government’s independent adviser on standards, Sir Alex Allan, carried out the investigation for the Cabinet Office.  

Sources told the BBC that the Home Secretary had not met the requirements of the ministerial code, and that there had been evidence of bullying though it could have been unintentional. 

Traditionally anyone who breaks the code leaves their post, though it is not expected that Ms Patel will do so.  There are also believed to be criticisms of senior Whitehall mandarins in the report, and it is said that Ms Patel was unaware of concerns about her. 

Sir Mark Sedwill, former Cabinet Secretary, confirmed the report had concluded some time ago to the BBC and it had been awaiting a decision from the prime minister, leading to accusations he had been sitting on it. 

Just days after the investigation got underway in March, Johnson said his instinct was to “stick with Prit”, which led to accusations he was pre-judging its outcome. 

Labour want the report to be released in full and say the investigation system is flawed if it cannot be made public. 

Thomas-Symonds suggested the government’s conduct on this issue falls short of the seven principles of public Life, in particular: integrity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. 

He said: “We no longer have faith in the government’s ability to handle this issue.” 

The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across the whole of public life in England.

It is chaired by Lord Evans of Weardale.

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