Senior judges at the High Court will hear today a legal challenge over the Prime Minister’s decision to stand by the Home Secretary following accusations of bullying.
The FDA union launched judicial review proceedings in February over Boris Johnson’s decision last year to disregard the findings of his adviser on ministerial standards in order to back Priti Patel.
The case is due to be heard by Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Steyn at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today.
‘Not always considerate and respectful’
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 that 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 Mr 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 Mr Johnson, who is its arbiter, judged 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, 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.