Health Minister Lawrie Hooper and department colleague Tanya August-Hanson have been cleared of breaching the government code following an investigation into allegations of bullying and intimidation.

But the independent report, which says the Minister ‘flew closer to the sun by some margin’ than Ms August-Hanson, will nevertheless make for uncomfortable reading for Mr Hooper.

The investigation found that the MHK for Ramsey had taken a ‘pretty shabby’ approach at a House of Keys sitting when he had accused an independent committee of lying.

The allegations had been made by two members of the Health Services Consultative Committee who claimed they were subjected to a ‘rant’ by the Health Minister and shouted at by his department member colleague at a meeting in June.

Chief Minister Alfred Cannan commissioned an independent investigation last year into complaints that Mr Hooper and Ms August-Hanson had ‘exhibited intimidating and bullying behaviour’ at that meeting.

Mr Hooper was also accused of breaching the government code in the House of Keys in October by wrongly accusing the independent committee of lying in its annual report.

Mr Cannan initially told MHKs that he did not intend to publish the report but on Monday morning it was released on the government’s Freedom of Information website.

The report, which is heavily redacted to protect the identity of witnesses, clears Mr Hooper and Ms August-Hanson of breaching the government code.

But report author, lawyer Alan Gough, concludes: ‘I find that the case against Mr Hooper that he bullying and intimidatory at the meeting on June 26 not to have been made out although I have to say Mr Hooper flies closer to the sun by some margin than Ms August-Hanson.

‘I do not find the complaint against Ms August-Hanson to be proved. An allegation of bullying and intimidation is a very serious allegation.’

The report author said there was a disparity of evidence between the HSCC members.

He said the June meeting was always going to be a difficult one and he accepted the description that it was ‘fractious’.

He said: ‘Others use the word “robust” and “challenging”.

‘Indeed it was and I suspect the relationship between the Minister and the HSCC was one that did nothing but deteriorate since the Minister’s appointment to his office.

‘I am not satisfied that this single event can amount to bullying under the Ministerial Code but I do think that Mr Hooper would have been well-advised to have exerted his influence on the meeting to make it more temperate.

‘Could he have handled the meeting better? Undoubtedly.

‘I am satisfied that voices were raised but it is a bit of stretch to accept that the meeting became as hostile as some members of the HSCC describe.’

Tanya August-Hanson

Mr Gough said that part of the complaint was that the Minister launched into a rant and was vocally supported by Ms August-Hanson; she raised her voice to a level described as shouting and she described the HSCC as being illegal or acting illegally.

He said he was satisfied that the MLC did use the word ‘illegal’ but realising she was in error had corrected it to ‘unlawful’

The report says there had been a battle over the identity of the HSCC, with the politicians believing its role was to scrutinise medical services but members of the committee thinking they should be able to comment on matters normally in the political arena - policy, priorities and funding.

Six out of nine members of the HSCC have since resigned. Mr Gough said: ‘Was the Minister wrong to say what he did to the House of Keys on October 31, 2023? I think he was not wrong but it was a pretty shabby approach for him to take.’

He said given the ‘fundamental rift’ between the Minister and the HSCC on the role of the latter, ‘a great deal of angst could have been avoided’ if legal opinion from the Attorney General's Chambers had been obtained a year earlier.