The union for senior civil servants has urged the prime minister to reform the ministerial complaints process, following allegations of bullying by ministers.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the constant “drip-feed” of public accusations about ministers’ conduct “serves no-one well” and encouraged him to urgently reform the system for dealing with complaints about ministers.
It came as justice secretary Dominic Raab faced bullying claims from multiple civil servants, which he has denied, and follows the resignation of Gavin Williamson last week amid claims he bullied staff and told a senior civil servant to “jump out of the window”.
In 2021 the Home Office settled a bullying claim against former home secretary Priti Patel.
Penman’s letter says: “There is increasing scrutiny over the conduct of ministers and, in particular, accusations of bullying – behaviour that has no place in a modern workplace.
Bullying and harassment
“It can come as no surprise to you that civil servants have little confidence in the current system for addressing bullying and harassment, given the experience of the last few years.
“The current system under the Ministerial Code is opaque and entirely at the whim of the prime minister.”
The letter adds that civil servants that had little confidence that raising a formal complaint would result in action, which has resulted in a “toxic work culture that will impact on the ability to deliver good government for the public, blight the careers and lives of those that suffer from bullying or harassment, and ultimately cast a shadow over the entire government”.
The constant drip feed of accusations against ministers serves no-one well. If Rishi Sunak wants to lead a government of integrity, then he needs to introduce a transparent & independent process for complaints against ministers. My letter to the Prime Minister: pic.twitter.com/WfbmLT3wOr
— Dave Penman (@FDAGenSec) November 14, 2022
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Penman said that investigating complaints made against ministers should not be left to “the whim of a prime minister” who gets to decide if they will support their political allies or launch an investigation.
A spokesperson for 10 Downing Street told the BBC that there is an established procedure for civil servants to make complaints and that the prime minister does intend to appoint a new adviser on ministerial standards.