Sir Mark Sedwill – A settlement payment?

Last week, the news broke that the Prime Minister had signed off a payment into Sir Mark Sedwill’s pension of £248,189 – a sizeable sum. There has been tension between the Government and Sir Mark reported throughout the summer, and last month it was announced that Sir Mark would leave his post in September – well before time.

The settlement was revealed from a personal minute signed by the Prime Minister and publicly available here.

The question many have been asking is why the Government is paying over this money? The most likely answer, we suspect, is as a settlement payment. Indeed, in his minute the Prime Minister describes the payment as “compensation“.

Employment practitioners will be well aware, however, that even for the best case of unfair dismissal, a payment of nearly £250,000 is excessive – even factoring the legal costs of fighting any claim Sir Mark brought. The only reasonable conclusion is that Sir Mark’s potential claims included one of the uncapped variety of claims – and the most likely suspect is whistleblowing.

If Sir Mark was able to show that he had raised matters that tended to show that there had been a breach of a legal obligation (or, indeed, that there may be an imminent breach of a legal obligation) on the part of someone in government, that may amount to a protected disclosure. One would not like to speculate quite what his potential protected disclosure might have been, but given the various issues that have arisen during lockdown in particular, it is quite possible that this happened.

If, as a result of making any protected disclosure,, Sir Mark had been subjected to a detriment or even forced to resign, then he would likely have a good case. In that context, the Prime Minister’s description of the payment as “value for money” does tend to suggest that the advice to the Government may have been that its chances of defending any claim may have been slim.

Comments on this story from Tim Goodwin were picked up by the media and published in the Mail on Sunday today. A copy is reproduced below (with kind thanks to the Mail on Sunday) and the full article can be found online here.

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