Priti Patel gets support from local MPs as storm rages over bullying claims
Home Secretary and Witham MP Priti Patel is to stay in post – and has received backing from local colleagues amid reports that an inquiry into allegations of bullying found that she had broken the rules for ministers.
But the Prime Minister’s adviser on Ministerial Standards, Sir Alex Allan, has resigned in response to Mr Johnson’s decision to keep Ms Patel as Home Secretary.
A Government statement said Mr Johnson has “full confidence” in Ms Patel and “considers this matter now closed”. Ms Patel apologised for upset caused by her behaviour, saying in a statement: “It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone.”
Normally ministers are expected to resign if they breach the code.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, whose constituency has been visited twice by the Home Secretary over the last year, tweeted his backing for her while fellow ministers Matt Hancock and James Cleverly gave her their backing during BBC interviews.
Mr Hunt tweeted that the Home Secretary felt there was often a difference between the priorities of Whitehall officials and “the people” and he was not surprised that some officials “have had it in for her.”
He added: “I have always found her very courteous and willing to listen to MPs – and also to members of the public that she has met during visits to the town.”
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Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Mr Hancock saying he felt “very proud” to serve in a Cabinet with her. He told BBC Breakfast: “I think she’s doing an excellent job and is an excellent Home Secretary and really delivering on things that matter to people In all the dealings I’ve ever had with her she’s been nothing but courteous.”
Foreign Office minister Mr Cleverly, who is MP for Braintree, said he was “proud that my friend and neighbour 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.”
The Prime Minister’s independent adviser Sir Alex Allan said Home Secretary Priti 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.”
He 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.”
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.
“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.”
Dave Penman, general secretary of senior civil servants’ union the FDA, said Mr Johnson’s actions had undermined confidence in the whole process.
A Cabinet Office investigation was launched in March over allegations that Ms Patel belittled colleagues and clashed with senior officials in three different departments.
It followed the resignation of the Home Office’s permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam, who accused Ms Patel of a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.