Civil servant boss who quit over Priti Patel bullying claims ‘not consulted’ by inquiry

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A former top civil servant claims he told Priti Patel not to shout and swear at staff within the first month of her appointment as Home Secretary.

Sir Philip Rutnam "advised" the minister against screaming and swearing at staff as early as August last year – a month after she was made Home Secretary.

The former Home Office chief, who resigned over the row and launched a constructive dismissal claim, also claims he was never asked to contribute to Sir Alex Allan's official report.

He also said he had issued her with further warnings about treating civil servants with respect between September 2019 and February this year.

Despite this, an inquiry into Mrs Patel's alleged bullying found there was "no evidence (she) was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time".

He previously said Mrs Patel created a climate of fear in the Home Office.

Sir Philip Rutnam claims he was not asked to contribute to the inquiry report
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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Responding to today's report, Sir Philip said: "I have a high regard for Sir Alex Allan and regret his resignation, but I was at no stage asked to contribute evidence to the Cabinet Office investigation which gave rise to his advice to the Prime Minister.

"The advice states that no feedback was given to the Home Secretary and that she was therefore unaware of issues that she might otherwise have addressed.

"This is not correct. As early as August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised that she must not shout and swear at staff.

"I advised her on a number of further occasions between September 2019 and February 2020 about the need to treat staff with respect, and to make changes to protect health, safety and wellbeing.

"Enormous efforts were made from top to bottom in the Home Office to support the new Home Secretary and respond to her direction, and significant achievements have resulted.

"The advice does not fairly reflect this."

Priti Patel apologised today after the Cabinet Office decided she had broken the Ministerial Code of ethics
(Image: UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)

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The inquiry's official report found Mrs Patel "shouted and swore" at staff in behaviour "that can be described as bullying".

The Home Secretary apologised today after the Cabinet Office decided she had broken the Ministerial Code of ethics.

Yet  Boris Johnson  sensationally overruled the inquiry and decided he didn't believe Ms Patel broke the Ministerial Code – despite writing in it himself that "there must be no bullying".

That means she will keep her job despite the finding of bullying. And he ordered Tory MPs to rally round her, telling a WhatsApp group: "Time to form a square around the prittster".

The civil servant who led the inquiry resigned instantly after the PM's shock decision, which came at the end of Anti-Bullying Week.

Sir Alex said in a statement: “I recognise that it is for the Prime Minister to make a judgment on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the ministerial code.

The Home Secretary shouted and swore at staff, the report found
(Image: Daily Mirror/Ian Vogler)

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“But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position as the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on the code.”

Jonathan Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: "It is deeply concerning that [Sir Alex] has resigned. This episode raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the current arrangements for investigating and responding to breaches of the Ministerial Code."

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil service union, accused Boris Johnson of "political interference" and said the PM "simply doesn't care" about bullying.

He said: "No civil servant will now have confidence that any complaint raised about ministerial behaviour will be dealt with fairly or impartially.

“It’s clear we now need an independent and transparent process where bullying and harassment allegations against ministers can be dealt with effectively, free from political interference.”

After months of delay, No10 today finally released just a one-and-a-half page summary of the report Sir Alex launched back in Spring.

Downing Street is refusing to publish the full report in a move Labour has branded a "prime ministerial cover-up".

Labour leader  Keir Starmer  demanded the full report is published urgently and the PM and Ms Patel "face questions on their conduct" on Monday in the Commons.

"If I were Prime Minister, the Home Secretary would have been removed from her job," Sir Keir said. "It is hard to imagine another workplace in the UK where this behaviour would be condoned by those at the top.

"The Government should be setting an example. Instead, it is one rule for Boris Johnson and his friends, another for everyone else.

"The Prime Minister has previously said he ‘loathes bullying’. Yet when one of his own ministers is found to have bullied their staff he ignores the damning report sat on his desk and instead protects them.

"In the interest of transparency, the report into Priti Patel’s conduct and any drafts should now be fully published and the Prime Minister and Home Secretary should come to the House on Monday to face questions on their conduct."

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