Court challenge over Priti Patel bullying row ‘to be heard next week’

An investigation found Priti Patel had not always treated civil servants with 'consideration and respect'.

Court challenge over Priti Patel bullying row ‘to be heard next week’ Parliament TV

A court challenge to Boris Johnson’s decision to stand by the home secretary following accusations of bullying will be heard next week, a union has said.

The FDA union launched judicial review proceedings in February over the Prime Minister’s decision last year to disregard the findings of his adviser on ministerial standards in order to back Priti Patel.

The union said the case will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice next Wednesday and Thursday.

In an investigation into Patel’s behaviour, published in November, Sir Alex Allan found she had not always treated civil servants with “consideration and respect”.

He concluded Patel’s behaviour, which was said to include some occasions of shouting and swearing, met the definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service.

Sir Alex left his advisory role in Downing Street after Johnson contradicted his advice by judging that Patel did not breach the ministerial code.

Ministers are usually expected to resign if they breach the code but Johnson, who is its arbiter, judged Patel had not fallen foul of the rules – and that is the decision being challenged by the FDA.

Ahead of the hearing, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the Prime Minister’s decision was “extraordinary” and that civil servants’ confidence in challenging unacceptable behaviour from ministers had been “fatally damaged”.

He said: “We are asking the court to rule that the Prime Minister misdirected himself. This is not about forcing the home secretary to face sanctions, that is a matter for the Prime Minister, this is simply about how the ministerial code is interpreted.

“Even now, at this late stage, the Prime Minister has an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the Government’s approach to standards in Parliament.

“I urge him to work with us to rebuild confidence among civil servants to ensure that the ministerial code is fit for purpose as an ethical code of standards for ministers and that civil servants can have a transparent and independent process for dealing with their complaints.”

Following the publication of Sir Alex’s report, Patel issued an “unreserved, fulsome apology” and said there were “no excuses” for what happened.