Boris Johnson has “no choice” but to introduce an independent process to hold ministers to account for breaching the ministerial code, the union representing senior public servants has said.
FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the Prime Minister’s decision to stand by Home Secretary Priti Patel, despite her being found to have bullied staff, suggested the Government has almost “no moral authority”.
He told the PA news agency that if Mr Johnson wants to understand the impact on civil servants of such behaviour then he had “no choice going forward but to call for an independent process to be introduced”.
Sir Alex Allan, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial standards, resigned after Mr Johnson contradicted his advice by judging that Ms Patel did not breach the ministerial code.
The code outlines the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they discharge their duties. Ministers are usually expected to resign if they breach it.
Mr Penman said the handling of the investigation – which was launched in March – had “laid bare all of the concerns we had about the ministerial code as the only mechanism for challenging ministers’ behaviour”.
“It is not really intended to deal with this – it is meant to deal with conflicts of interest and elements of that around running government,” he said.
“It was the same in Parliament – they had similar sorts of procedures but we were able to negotiate a new process that was independent, transparent and took decisions away from the MPs themselves in relation to the conduct of MPs – and put in an independent process…
“So we have been through this in Parliament, and the irony in all of this is if Priti Patel had done this in Parliament, if she had behaved like this in Parliament, there would have been an independent, transparent process and she would have been held to account.
“But she can walk up Whitehall and now essentially she can behave in a way with impunity because that is the message from the Prime Minister.
“We need an independent and transparent process. The chair of the Committee for Standards on Public Life last week said that, Lord Evans, and he has come out and said it again today that his committee will look into this…
“The two principle advisors to the Prime Minister on standards for ministers have raised concerns about the Prime Minister’s decision.
“This Government has almost no moral authority. The Prime Minister needs to act to try and restore some of that.”