A little over a week ago it was confirmed that the former Home Office Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam had launched employment tribunal proceedings against the government for constructive dismissal. The case alleges a toxic working environment and allegations of improper conduct by the Home Secretary Priti Patel. After the news of the remarkable resignation broke in February fresh allegations began to be aired in the media while a Cabinet Office inquiry was conducted and ordered by the Cabinet Secretary (and former Permanent Secretary of the Home Office) Mark Sedwill.
Perhaps coincidentally, shortly after the news of Rutnam’s employment tribunal newspapers were reporting that the Cabinet Office report had cleared Patel and a source reported that “they have looked at all the claims and found nothing.” I have no idea whether the allegations are true but I have certainly dealt with enough investigations which found “no evidence” to be sceptical of such bald claims, and that is in investigations that exhibit still some semblance of consideration for natural justice.
Commenting on the news of the exoneration, and the way the findings were leaked, the FDA’s David Penman (Rutnam’s trade union) observed that “It tells you everything that is wrong with investigations under the ministerial code that a process which is not written down, which contains no rights for those who might complain, that is determined in secret, alone by a prime minister who has already pledged his allegiance to the minister in advance, and which allows no right to transparency or challenge for anyone who complained, would then be leaked on the evening before the home secretary is due to appear before the home affairs select committee.”
If in fact there really is “no evidence” then we can surely expect that Rutnam’s tribunal claim will be struck out as having no prospect of success at the earliest opportunity. Time will tell … but I wouldn’t bank on it.