I would like to update the House on the outcome of an investigation under the Ministerial Code.
In reaching my decision I took advice from the Independent Adviser, Sir Alex Allan, in relation to the allegations made earlier this year around the Home Secretary’s conduct. I take this issue very seriously and recognise that it is always difficult for individuals to come forward and raise concerns. I am grateful to those who have done so. I am also grateful to Sir Alex for his advice and considered his conclusions carefully.
It was clear from Sir Alex’s advice that at times there have been difficult working relationships all round. Sir Alex’s advice found that the Home Secretary had become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in DfID three years ago. He also found, however, that the Home Secretary had not always treated her civil servants with the consideration and respect that would be expected, and her approach on occasion has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.
He went on to advise, therefore, that the Home Secretary had not consistently met the high standards expected of her under the Ministerial Code.
I have noted Sir Alex’s advice that many of the concerns now raised were not raised at the time and that the Home Secretary was unaware of the impact that she had. I am reassured that the Home Secretary is sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working. I am also reassured that relationships, practices and culture in the Home Office are much improved. As the arbiter of the code, having considered Sir Alex’s advice and weighing up all the factors, my judgement is that the Ministerial Code was not breached.
Together with the Cabinet Secretary, I have this morning written to all Ministers and Permanent Secretaries. This letter sets out the paramount importance of relationships of mutual trust and respect between politicians and their officials. This includes keeping internal conversations private, feeling able to speak freely and honestly about matters of state and to speak constructively about things that are not working so that we can fix them together promptly. I am clear that there is a particular duty on Ministers and Permanent Secretaries to create jointly across government a culture which is professional, respectful, focused and ambitious for change and in which there is no place for bullying.
The Cabinet Secretary and I are enormously grateful to civil servants for the commitment they have shown as we navigate through these challenging times. We are also immensely proud of the fantastic work that is going on across Government, and know that this work would not have been possible without strong relationships between Ministers and their officials.
I have full confidence in the Home Secretary and consider this matter now closed.
I am placing a copy of Sir Alex Allan’s findings in the library of the House. A copy of the letter to Cabinet Ministers and Heads of Department will be made available on .gov.uk.