Boris Johnson sued over failure to sack Priti Patel for bullying

Boris Johnson is facing a legal challenge over his decision to clear Priti Patel over bullying her staff.

Boris Johnson is facing a legal challenge over his decision to clear Priti Patel over bullying her staff.
Boris Johnson is facing a legal challenge over his decision to clear Priti Patel over bullying her staff.

Lawyers acting on behalf of senior civil servants yesterday handed a pre-action notice to Downing Street accusing the Prime Minister of acting unlawfully by overruling the findings of his own independent adviser.

Despite the advice and evidence, Mr Johnson cleared the Home Secretary of misconduct.

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The notice says if the decision is allowed to stand, it would set a "damaging precedent" that exempts ministers from normal employment practices.

A successful challenge could see the PM’s decision struck off and also force the full Cabinet Office investigation into Ms Patel's behaviour to become public.

The scandal saw Mr Johnson’s adviser on ministerial standards Sir Alex Allan conclude that her behaviour amounted to bullying.

Asked to tone down his report by the PM, Sir Alex refused and later resigned.

The letter says: "If the Prime Minister's decision stands it sets a damaging precedent which gives carte blanche to the kind of unacceptable conduct which the home secretary was found to have committed.”

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The action is being brought by the FDA union, which represents more than 500 senior officials working in the Home Office.

Dave Penman, general secretary of senior civil servants’ union the FDA, said last month: “In his foreword to the ministerial code, Boris Johnson said: ‘There must be no bullying and no harassment’.

“If, as is being suggested, substance has been found in some of the allegations against the Home Secretary, then the Prime Minister should have no choice, but to conclude that the code has been breached.

“As Prime Minister, he is the sole arbiter of the ministerial code but he is also Minister for the Civil Service.

“Having pledged his support for the Home Secretary when the investigation began, and now sat on the report since the summer, he has already undermined confidence in this being a fair and impartial process.”

The inquiry into Ms Patel was triggered by the departure of senior Home Office civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam in March when he accused the home secretary of creating a climate “of fear” among her officials and a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him.

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