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Tuesday 24 November 2020

Outcome of the Ministerial Code investigation into the Home Secretary

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Responding to the outcome of the investigation into the Home Secretary, and the subsequent resignation of the Prime Minister’s independent adviser, Sir Alex Allan, General Secretary Dave Penman repeated the FDA’s call for “an independent and transparent process where bullying and harassment allegations against ministers can be dealt with effectively, free from political interference.”

Commenting on an investigation which began in March following the resignation of Sir Philip Rutnam as Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Penman said: “We’ve seen two resignations on principle at either side of this sorry affair, and in the middle a complete absence of political leadership and moral authority from the Prime Minister. I cannot believe he does not understand how civil servants will view his decision to ignore the evidence that the Home Secretary bullied her staff and, as such, breached the Ministerial Code.”

In a subsequent message to FDA members, Penman highlighted the inadequacies in the current system for dealing with complaints, and pointed out that in his own foreword to the Ministerial Code, the Prime Minister had written that “there must be no bullying and no harassment, no leaking; no breach of collective responsibility.”

“The Prime Minister, who is also Minister for the Civil Service, has made a clear choice…Despite the evidence, despite his own words in the foreword to the Ministerial Code, despite the resignation of his adviser on the code, the Prime Minister chose political convenience over his moral and constitutional obligations to the civil service and the country.”

The publication of the findings of the investigation into the Home Secretary resulted in widespread media coverage for the FDA, with Penman interviewed twice on BBC News (1st appearance, 2nd appearance), on Sky News, the BBC's Newsnight, Channel 4 News, ITV News and Channel 5 News.

This was accompanied by radio interviews on Radio 4's The World Tonight, LBC, BBC Radio Kent, Times Radio, Talk Radio, the Daily Mail’s The Daily Show with Andrew Pierce, and BBC 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan, as well as being covered across the print media. In all his media appearances, Penman argued that civil servants will now have no confidence that complaints raised under the Ministerial Code will be dealt with fairly and impartially.
Following briefings about a shake up in the Home Office, Penman responded in the Times, saying that it was “insulting to suggest that the civil service does not respond to demands or is stuck in a 9-5 culture, as the anonymous briefings suggest”. He also told the Guardian that if the Prime Minister was serious about tackling bullying, "he would introduce an independent and transparent process for dealing with these complaints, that was free from the political interference he has so blatantly shown in regard to the Home Secretary.”

The Prime Minister’s handling of the affair was also the subject of Penman's latest column for Civil Service World, where he spoke of the “moral vacuum at the heart of government”.

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