The prime minister is faced with questions about the investigation that found Home Secretary Priti Patel bullying staff amid allegations that he tried to pressure his standards advisor to water down the conclusion of his report.
Downing Street did not deny the suggestion that Boris Johnson had tried and failed to convince Sir Alex Allan to temper his conclusion that her behavior amounted to bullying, as he discovered cases of yelling and swearing.
The adviser quit on Friday when the prime minister ignored his conclusion that Ms. Patel had violated the ministerial code and backed his interior minister.
With what she described as an “unconditional, exaggerated apology,” Ms. Patel took advantage of Sir Alex’s finding that she was not getting any feedback on the impact of her behavior.
But Sir Philip Rutnam, who resigned as permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry after accusing Ms. Patel of a “brutal and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him, disputed this.
He said she was advised not to yell and swear at the staff for the month after her appointment in 2019 and that he told her to treat the staff with respect “a few more times”.
Sir Philip also said he had not been interviewed for the investigation, despite filing a constructive dismissal request in an employment court.
Meanwhile, the Times reported that two unnamed senior Whitehall officials said the prime minister tried and failed to get Sir Alex to water down his report to discover there was no clear evidence of bullying.
Downing Street did not deny the report, but a No. 10 spokesman said instead, “As you might expect, the Prime Minister spoke to Sir Alex Allan to broaden his understanding of the report.
“Sir Alex’s conclusions are all his own.”
Home office shadow secretary Holly Lynch said the “first, unedited report” should be published in full and called for an independent investigation.
“These are serious allegations suggesting that Boris Johnson was trying to interfere with an investigation into allegations of bullying against one of his closest political allies,” said the Labor MP.
Sir Alex found that Ms. Patel had not always treated officials with “attention and respect” and concluded that her approach on occasions “amounted to behavior that could be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.”
He said Ms Patel had “not consistently met the high standards required by the ministerial code,” although he said there was “no evidence she was aware of the impact of her behavior”.
The Home Secretary apologized, saying there were “no excuses” for what had happened, but stressed Sir Alex’s assessment of her consciousness.
She told the BBC that “any disturbance I have caused is completely unintentional and at that point, of course, it says in the report that the problems were not pointed out”.
Sir Philip later issued a statement through the FDA union to officials saying he was “at no point being asked to contribute evidence” to the investigation.
“The advisory states that no feedback was given to the Home Secretary and therefore she was not aware of any issues she might otherwise have addressed. This is not correct, ”he said.
“Already in August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised not to yell and swear at the staff.
“I advised her on a number of other occasions between September 2019 and February 2020 about the need to treat staff with respect and to make changes to protect health, safety and wellbeing.”
Mr. Johnson, who is the ultimate arbitrator of the ministerial code, ruled that Ms. Patel has not broken the rules and still has “complete confidence in her” and “now considers this case closed”.
The chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Evans of Weardale, said Sir Alex’s resignation was “very concerning” and that his committee would look “urgently” into what had happened as part of the ministerial code.
Mr. Johnson’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, said: “The Prime Minister personally takes these allegations extremely seriously. He hates bullying.
“He did say he wouldn’t tolerate bullying. He does not tolerate bullying. It is not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully. “
Downing Street indicated that the full report on Ms. Patel’s behavior would not be published to protect those who gave testimony.