It has been a stressful week at Anderson Towers. Jim Rough-Diamond, our employment law partner, has been trying to manage a TUPE claim that Mr Pettifog has brought against the UK government.
Regular readers will recall that Mr Pettifog has been acting a trade representative of the UK government to Nigeria, reporting to Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade. This has involved Mr P in several trips to Africa. Although he gets his expenses paid for these trips, including flying business class on British Airways (with the occasional, satisying upgrade to first class), he doesn’t receive any fee for his services. The thought of giving advice for free has rankled with Mr Pettifog, and he has been known to bore his friends for hours on this subject during drinking sessions at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
Six months ago, over dinner with his friend Jumbo McCorquadale QC, they came up with a plan to resolve this financial lacuna. Mr Pettifog would form a company, Pettifog Research Limited, which would undertake trade-related research for the Department for International Trade (DIT). Jumbo knew a procurement officer at DIT and would wangle it for an invitation-to-tender to be issued to undertake research on the West African economy. The tender selection criteria would be “adjusted” to favour bidders who could demonstrate direct experience of representing the UK government in trade talks in West Africa.
At first, the plan seemed perfect. Mr Pettifog’s company won the tender, after making the only short-listed bid. The fee was to be £250,000 per report, with up to 6 reports to be prepared under the contract. Mr Pettifog hired two interns, on a fee of £10,000 per annum each, to do the research work and prepare the reports.
But after a month, it all started to fall apart. The procurement officer wrote an unfortunate email to Jumbo McCorquadale, asking for her fee, which was picked up by the DIT security department. She was fired. The contract was cancelled, as was Mr Pettifog’s role as trade envoy.
It wasn’t all bad. The work of the two interns had impressed the project manager at DIT, and they were recruited by DIT on salaries of £45,000 plus London allowance.
At this point, Mr Pettifog and Jumbo McCorquadale QC came up with a cunning plan. Mr Pettifog would bring a claim against DIT arguing that the activities of Pettifog Research Limited (PRL) had been brought in-house by DIT and therefore all employees of PRL automatically became employees of DIT under TUPE – the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. The two interns had, of course, joined DIT as employees, which was evidence of a TUPE transfer.
It turned out that Mr Pettifog had a written contract of employment with PRL under which he was to be paid a salary of £250,000 per annum. So, Mr Pettifog brought a claim for unfair dismissal and breach of contract against DIT as his new employer.
Much against his better instincts, Jim Rough-Diamond prepared the claim on behalf of Mr Pettifog. Mr Pettifog had reassured him that several leading advocates had agreed to act on his behalf, if it ever came to court, including Lord Falconer QC (former Labour Lord Chancellor), Sir Keir Starmer QC (former Director of Public Prosecutions) and Cherie Booth QC (former …well, current wife of Tony Blair).
Unfortunately, DIT has now counter-claimed, alleging fraud, and asking for security for costs. And Mr Pettifog has received in the post, without any covering letter, copies of some photographs that appear to be of him in a state of undress at a notorious club in Budapest. Jim Rough-Diamond opened the envelope in which these photos were sent, believing it to be connected with his employment claim. Which, in a way, it is.
Jim Rough-Diamond is now in a sanatorium, recovering from his ordeal, and our firm’s employment department is rudderless. Mr Pettifog is taking the weekend to decide whether to drop his case. He had hoped to ask Jumbo McCorquadale QC for advice, but it seems that Jumbo has gone on an urgent trip to Columbia, and cannot be contacted.