Standards adviser QUITS as Boris Johnson REFUSES to sack Priti Patel

Who said what? 

Priti Patel: ‘I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people. It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone. I am very grateful for the hard work of thousands of civil servants who help to deliver the Government’s agenda.

‘I care deeply about delivering on the commitments we have made to the people of this country and I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated.

‘I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his support. The Permanent Secretary and I are working closely together to deliver on the vital job the Home Office has to do for the country.’

Sir Alex Allan: ‘I recognise that it is for the Prime Minister to make a judgement on whether actions by a Minister amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code. 

‘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.’ 

Home Office Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft: ‘Sir Alex Allan’s findings make difficult reading, including for the Civil Service.

‘The Home Secretary and I are committed to working together to improve the Home Office and build the strongest possible partnership between Ministers and officials based on support, candour, safety to challenge, mutual respect and professionalism. Relationships between Ministers and officials have improved considerably.

Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary:  ‘The Prime Minister does personally take these allegations exceedingly seriously.

‘He loathes bullying. He takes it very seriously and recognises that it is very difficult for people to come forward and raise concerns. It is a brave thing to do. He knows that.

‘He did say that he would not tolerate bullying. He hasn’t tolerated bullying. It is not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully.’ 

 

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Priti Patel apologised for her treatment of civil servants tonight at Boris Johnson faced growing anger for failing to sack her as Home Secretary.

The Cabinet minister said that she is ‘absolutely sorry’ and that she ‘never intentionally set out to upset anyone’ after an official investigation found she bullied staff.

The decision by the Prime Minister to ‘form a square’ around Ms Patel, 48, led to the resignation of his ethics advisor and led to criticism from a former head of MI5, who now chairs Parliament’s standards committee. 

The PM let the Home Secretary off with an apology after the investigation launched in March found she broke the ministerial code but also blasted ‘inflexible’ civil servants for obstructing her. 

Author Sir Alex Allan, who said she had broken the ministerial code – albeit ‘unintentionally’ – resigned this morning.

Normally ministers are expected to resign if they breach the code but the Prime Minister makes the final decision and deemed it not a resigning matter.

Ms Patel spoke to broadcasters tonight, saying: ‘I’m sorry that my behaviour has upset people and I’ve never intentionally set out to upset anyone.

‘I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day and we work together day in day out to deliver on the agenda of this Government and I’m absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset.’

But in the wake of Sir Alex’s resignation, Lord Evans of Weardale, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, branded it ‘deeply concerning’.

Lord Evans, the former director general of MI5, said the committee would be looking ‘urgently’ at what had happened as part of its review of the ministerial code.

‘Sir Alex Allan is a man of great wisdom and integrity and it is deeply concerning that he has resigned,’ Lord Evans said in a statement.

‘This episode raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the current arrangements for investigating and responding to breaches of the ministerial code.

‘The committee will be looking at this urgently as part of its review.’ 

In a WhatsApp message to MPs after the announcement this morning Mr Johnson said it was ‘time to form a square around the prittster’ and many MPs have been defending her record today in the face of growing anger.

The decision to keep her in her post – taken during the UK’s anti-bullying week – sparked a furious new row in Westminster at a time when Mr Johnson is attempting to rest his government after the departure of top aide Dominic Cummings last week. 

In a statement this morning Ms Patel said: ‘I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people. It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone.’ 

Sir Alex responded by quitting, saying: ‘I recognise that it is for the Prime Minister to make a judgement on whether actions by a Minister amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code.  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.’   

Mr Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters today Ms Patel had made a ‘full and frank’ apology, adding: ‘He does take this issue extremely seriously … it is Sir Alex Allan that details that there was no evidence she was aware of the impact of her behaviour, no feedback given to her at the time. 

Demands have been growing for the publication of its findings into Ms Patel's (pictured today) conduct

Demands have been growing for the publication of its findings into Ms Patel's (pictured today) conduct

Demands have been growing for the publication of its findings into Ms Patel’s (pictured today) conduct

Sir Alex Allan resigned this morning as Ms Patel apologised for 'her past behaviour' in the wake of his long-awaited probe into the senior Cabinet minister's relationship with her staff

Sir Alex Allan resigned this morning as Ms Patel apologised for 'her past behaviour' in the wake of his long-awaited probe into the senior Cabinet minister's relationship with her staff

Sir Alex Allan resigned this morning as Ms Patel apologised for ‘her past behaviour’ in the wake of his long-awaited probe into the senior Cabinet minister’s relationship with her staff

Sir Philip Rutnam, who was the Home Office's permanent secretary, quit earlier this year, accusing Ms Patel of a 'vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign' against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Sir Philip Rutnam, who was the Home Office's permanent secretary, quit earlier this year, accusing Ms Patel of a 'vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign' against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Sir Philip Rutnam, who was the Home Office’s permanent secretary, quit earlier this year, accusing Ms Patel of a ‘vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign’ against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Patel accused of being ‘a liar and a bully’ by senior civil servant

Priti Patel was accuse of abusive behavior to a series of civil servants across three departments she worked at in Government. 

The probe was sparked by the resignation in February of Sir Philip Rutnam as permanent secretary in the Home Office.

It sparked a furious row, with Sir Philip, branding Ms Patel a liar and a bully.

In a bombshell resignation statement, which he read live on television, he accused Miss Patel, 47, of ‘shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands’.

He accused Ms Patel of orchestrating a ‘vicious’ campaign against him, of lying about her involvement in it and of creating a climate of fear in her department. 

It prompted an avalanche of claims against Boris Johnson’s highest ranking female minister, all of which she denies.

Claims against Ms Patel include the allegation she ‘dressed down’ staff in front of their colleagues and asked: ‘Why is everyone so f***ing useless?’ 

Sir Philip is now taking the Home Secretary and her department to an employment tribunal next year accusing her of unfair dismissal and claiming he should have been protected as a whistleblower.

He was one of the most senior civil servants in Whitehall, having joined the Home Office as permanent secretary – the top civil servant role in each department – in April 2017 having previously done the same job at the Department for Transport for five years. 

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‘I can continue to read it out but I know you can look at it for yourself.

‘My point is that it is Sir Alex Allan who is saying to the Prime Minister that there are mitigating factors and the Home Secretary’s behaviour needs to be seen in context.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: ‘The PM is reassured that the Home Secretary is sorry for inadvertently upsetting those whom she was working with.

‘But ultimately as the arbiter of the ministerial code, weighing up all of the factors, the Prime Minister doesn’t believe there was a breach.’

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘Yet again, the Prime Minister has been found wanting when his leadership has been tested. 

‘If I were Prime Minister, the Home Secretary would have been removed from her job.

‘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.’

Sir Alex said Ms Patel’s frustrations had seen her shout and swear in some instances. In his published advice, he said: ‘She is action-orientated and can be direct.

‘The Home Secretary has also become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in DfID (the now defunct Department for International Development) three years ago.

‘The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing.

‘This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.’ 

Sir Alex added: ‘My advice is that the Home Secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect.

‘Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.

‘To that extent her behaviour has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally.’

But in leaks from his report, Sir Alex laid significant criticism at the door of civil servants who worked with Ms Patel, the MP for Witham in Essex.

‘The Home Office was not as flexible as it could have been in responding to the Home Secretary’s requests and direction’ he wrote.

‘She has legitimately not always felt supported by the department. In addition, no feedback was given to the Home Secretary of the impact of her behaviour, which meant she was unaware of issues that she could have otherwise addressed.’ 

It is understood Sir Alex went on to say that Miss Patel had ‘also become justifiably in many incidences frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt’.

He noted that there has been an improvement in the relationship between the Home Secretary and her officials in recent months. The Home Secretary has always denied wrongdoing, and sources close to her last night insisted no formal complaints were ever made. 

Matthew Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Home Office, said today that relationships between officials and ministers at the department had ‘improved considerably’ but admitted the report into the Home Secretary’s conduct made for ‘difficult reading’.

Alex Allan: former spy boss who once windsurfed down the Thames to work and later was embroiled in ‘assassination’ mystery

Sir Alex Allan is a career civil servant and former intelligence chief who once found himself at the heart of a mystery that led to claims he had been the target of an assassination attempt.

The 69-year-old was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from 2007 to 2011, a role which saw him assessing the work of MI5 and MI6.

He was fit and active and known as a keen runner, sailor and cyclist who once windsurfed down the Thames in a suit to beat a train strike (below).

But in July 2008 Sir Alex, a former Downing Street private secretary to both John Major and Tony Blair, was found unconscious at his West London home.

The JIC chief – also known as a fan of the 60s band the Grateful Dead – lapsed into a coma and was described as ‘very, very seriously ill’. 

Wildlife painter Dominique Salm, who rented his late wife’s art studio in his home, told neighbours he was discovered with ‘blood everywhere’.

Her account added to speculation that Mr Allan may have been targeted by a foreign spy agency.

He was put under police guard in hospital while toxicology tests were carried out at his home.

Speculation focused on whether he had been targeted by terrorists or a hostile foreign government and questions were raised about his personal security.

Mr Allan’s wife, artist Katie Clemson, died of cancer aged 58 in 2007 and he continued to live in what was described as ‘an artist’s enclave’ on the Thames near Hammersmith.

He had also published his personal details on his own website, including his address, telephone number and details of family and friends.

However, Government officials tried to play down the investigation into his collapse, which was overseen by Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command.

No details of the police inquiry’s conclusions were officially released, but Whitehall sources were quoted at the time blaming it on pneumonia and insisted it was ‘non-suspicious’.      

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He said: ‘Sir Alex Allan’s findings make difficult reading, including for the Civil Service.

‘The Home Secretary and I are committed to working together to improve the Home Office and build the strongest possible partnership between ministers and officials based on support, candour, safety to challenge, mutual respect and professionalism.

‘Relationships between ministers and officials have improved considerably.

‘Day in, day out Home Office staff work tirelessly to keep the public safe, cut crime, and improve our immigration and asylum system, and we are determined that they should do so in a supportive environment that respects their wellbeing. 

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: ‘Priti Patel has broken the Ministerial Code, the PM should have sacked her.

‘It’s the PM’s job to set an example, but once again Johnson has failed. He seems to believe there is one rule for him and his friends and another rule for everyone else. Totally unacceptable.’

Sir Philip Rutnam, who was the Home Office’s permanent secretary, quit earlier this year, accusing Ms Patel of a ‘vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign’ against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal. 

Senior Tories rallied around the Home Secretary  today as Labour and other parties called for her to be sacked.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Times Radio today she was ‘nothing but courteous’, adding: ‘The truth is she’s also absolutely determined to deliver on the priorities on which we were elected. She’s a brilliant Home Secretary.’  

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said Ms Patel was a ‘formidable Home Secretary’ and an ‘asset to Government’.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said he was ‘proud that my friend and neighbour (Priti Patel) is leading the Home Office and delivering increased police numbers and secure borders’.

‘She is delivering the first duty of government, protection of the British people,’ he tweeted. 

And senior Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said Ms Patel has support across the party because she is ‘hard working, determined and has been very kind to many’.

He wrote on Twitter: ‘She knows her own mind was a great asset to @CommonsForeign and is doing a tough job in @ukhomeoffice.’

But Labour accused Mr Johnson of presiding over a ‘cover-up’ after it emerged that a fact-finding report into her behaviour will not be made public. Instead, the Prime Minister is expected to release an assessment of its findings.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said suggestions that Mr Johnson will not sack Ms Patel showed ‘all the hallmarks of a prime ministerial cover-up’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think we need to see the full report, it needs to be published in full, line by line, and the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister need to come to Parliament to answer questions because the revelations in recent days have been extraordinarily serious.

‘I’m afraid this really does have all the hallmarks of a prime ministerial cover-up and raises questions about his judgment.

‘If what has been reported is correct, then it is tantamount to the Prime Minister condoning bullying.’

Mr Thomas-Symonds said that given the nine-month delay in finalising the investigation into Ms Patel’s conduct, he had ‘lost confidence in this process’ and said the matter should be referred to the Committee on Standards in Public Life for a ‘full investigation to take place and establish the facts’.

Jess Phillips, the Labour MP and shadow minister for domestic violence, tweeted: ‘What an utter disgrace.

‘While the Government asks the entire country to stick to the rules it also cannot in good faith say that rules don’t apply to them.

‘Any Tory seeking to defend this is utterly without reason or comprehension.

‘In all my years of working with those who have suffered at the hands of those who use power to control and bully people I can tell you that when people get away with it it makes their behaviour worse where you might think it made them cautious, it doesn’t.’

Dave Penman, general secretary of the civil servants’ union the FDA, said: ‘We’ve seen two resignations on principle at either side of this sorry affair, and in the middle a complete absence of political leadership and moral authority from the Prime Minister.

‘I cannot believe he does not understand how civil servants will view his decision to ignore the evidence that the Home Secretary bullied her staff and, as such, breached the ministerial code. The only conclusion that can be reached is he simply doesn’t care.

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

‘As Lord Evans, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has said, this episode raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the current arrangements for investigating and responding to breaches of the ministerial code.

‘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.’

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary who made a shock return to the government after Boris Johnson won power

Priti Patel was brought back in to the heart of Government by Boris Johnson in July 2019, less than two years after she quit the Cabinet in disgrace.

The daughter of Gujarati Ugandan Asians, she picked up her Tory values and work ethic from her parents.

The right-winger and vocal Brexiteer’s maternal family was originally from Gujarat in India, before moving to Uganda in the early 20th century and prospered in business.

They moved to the UK in the 1960s, before the East African nation’s 80,000 Asian community was were expelled by the murderous dictator Idi Amin in 1972. 

Priti Patel is pictured as a baby with her mother Anjana, who along with her father Sushil initially lodged in one small room in North London while he completed his studies in engineering

Priti Patel is pictured as a baby with her mother Anjana, who along with her father Sushil initially lodged in one small room in North London while he completed his studies in engineering

Priti Patel is pictured as a baby with her mother Anjana, who along with her father Sushil initially lodged in one small room in North London while he completed his studies in engineering

Her parents, Sushil and Anjana, initially lodged in one small room in North London while he completed his studies in engineering.

Eventually, they were able to buy a small house in Harrow and used that to secure a bank loan for their first shop, a newsagent in Tottenham.

Priti and her younger sister and brother were frequently called upon to work alongside their parents in the several shops and sub-post offices they ran in Nottingham, Ipswich and Norwich.

When Priti became secondary school age, the family bought an upmarket chocolate shop in Hertfordshire where there were good state schools, including Watford Grammar where she was head girl.

She later got a degree in economics, sociology and social anthropology at Keele University and a post-graduate diploma in government and politics at Essex. 

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Sir Alex’s advice to the Prime Minister in full

Here is the advice to the Prime Minister on the Priti Patel investigation from his independent adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan, in full:

‘The ministerial code says ‘ministers should be professional in their working relationships with the Civil Service and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect’.

‘I believe civil servants – particularly senior civil servants – should be expected to handle robust criticism but should not have to face behaviour that goes beyond that. The Home Secretary says that she puts great store by professional, open relationships. She is action orientated and can be direct.

‘The Home Secretary has also become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in DfID three years ago. 

‘The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing. This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.

‘The Ministerial Code says that ‘harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the ministerial code…’. Definitions of harassment concern comments or actions relating to personal characteristics and there is no evidence from the Cabinet Office’s work of any such behaviour by the Home Secretary. 

‘The definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service accepts that legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a worker’s performance will not amount to bullying. It defines bullying as intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down. Instances of the behaviour reported to the Cabinet Office would meet such a definition.

‘The Civil Service itself needs to reflect on its role during this period. The Home Office was not as flexible as it could have been in responding to the Home Secretary’s requests and direction. She has – legitimately – not always felt supported by the department. In addition, no feedback was given to the Home Secretary of the impact of her behaviour, which meant she was unaware of issues that she could otherwise have addressed.

‘My advice is that the Home Secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the ministerial code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect. Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals. To that extent her behaviour has been in breach of the ministerial code, even if unintentionally.

‘This conclusion needs to be seen in context. There is no evidence that she was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time. The high pressure and demands of the role, in the Home Office, coupled with the need for more supportive leadership from top of the department has clearly been a contributory factor. In particular, I note the finding of different and more positive behaviour since these issues were raised with her.’

 

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