Priti Patel: Legal challenge over Home Secretary bullying claims to be heard at High Court

Credit: PA

The Prime Minister's decision to stand by the Home Secretary following accusations of bullying is to be challenged in the High Court on Wednesday.

The FDA trade union launched judicial review proceedings in February over Boris Johnson’s decision to disregard findings of his adviser on ministerial standards.

Priti Patel kept her job after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had "full confidence" and judged that she had not broken the ministerial code, which prompted the resignation from the author of a report on the matter, Sir Alex Allan.

Priti Patel apologised for her 'behaviour' in November 2020

The case is due to be heard by Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Steyn at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Wednesday.

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

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

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

The FDA general secretary, Dave Penman, whose union represents senior public servants, said earlier this month that Mr Johnson’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.”

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

The hearing is due to start at 10.30am and expected to last two days.