26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Sue Gray job probe stays under wraps

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Former senior United Kingdom Public Servant, Sue Gray is refusing to cooperate with a Government inquiry into her departure from the bureaucracy amid concerns the investigation is politically motivated and not based on any official process.

Head of the Public Service, Simon Case faced questions over his handling of the controversy after Ministers failed to publish the outcome of the inquiry despite widespread briefings that it would find Ms Gray had broken the Civil Service Code.

Ms Gray, who led the investigation into Ministerial misdoing in the COVID-19 Partygate scandal, took the Government by surprise when it emerged she had been offered the role of Opposition Leader, Keir Starmer’s Chief of Staff to help Labour prepare for power.

It led to the inquiry into the circumstances of her departure from her previous job as Second Permanent Secretary in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden said Ms Gray had chosen not to engage with the investigation, so the findings would remain confidential.

“In order to maintain confidentiality towards an individual former employee, I am unable at this stage to provide further information relating to the departure of Ms Gray, whilst we consider next steps,” Mr Dowden said.

The potentially explosive report is now not expected to be published until at least after the Government’s appointments watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), decides whether to delay Ms Gray’s start date as Mr Starmer’s Chief of Staff — and it may not be published at all.

Whitehall insiders said the Cabinet Office’s decision not to release the report followed 24 hours of intense negotiations over timings between Mr Case (pictured) and Ministers.

It is understood Mr Case initially wanted it to be published and then changed his mind.

Sources suggested Mr Case had become uncomfortable that a senior official could face such an investigation after they had already left the Public Service, with the Cabinet Office so far unable to explain under what process the inquiry took place.

Allies of Ms Gray said the investigation, which they claim was politically motivated as she had not worked in a sensitive role for five years, was designed to put pressure on the ACOBA to delay her start date.

London, 6 May 2023

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