LONDON (Reuters) – An inquiry looking into allegations of bullying by Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel has concluded that she “unintentionally” broke the rules on ministers’ behaviour, the BBC and other media reported on Thursday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked officials to carry out an inquiry to “establish the facts” in March after allegations were raised against the interior minister.
It came after Philip Rutnam, Britain’s top official in the interior ministry, resigned saying he had become the “target of a vicious and orchestrated campaign against him” which, he alleged, Patel was involved in.
Patel has always rejected any accusations of bullying. Although the report by the government’s independent adviser on standards was concluded in the summer, it has not been published.
The BBC, citing unnamed sources, said the draft report had found Patel had broken the ministerial code which states ministers should treat officials with respect, and that there was evidence of bullying, even if it was unintentional.
The Sun newspaper said the inquiry had concluded that Patel unintentionally broke the code, but no formal complaints were made against her, while ITV said Johnson would not reprimand her.
“The process is ongoing and the prime minister will make any decision on the matter public once the process has concluded,” a government spokeswoman said in a statement in response to the reports.
Johnson’s government has had an uneasy relationship with senior officials, with several top civil servants leaving their posts since his election win last December.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, home affairs spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said the revelations could not be more serious.
“This has all the hallmarks of a cover-up from the prime minister and raises fundamental questions about his judgement,” he said in a statement. “His actions are all but condoning bullying in the workplace.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)