21 November 2020 | UK NEWS
A report on the allegations of bullying in the Home Office relating to the Home Secretary’s behaviour was released yesterday.
Priti Patel had come under fire following reports that she was bullying and harassing members of her Home Office Civil Service team. The investigation was launched after the former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, resigned amid making the allegations.
The report seemed to suggest that there were issues at both ends of the communication, with Ms Patel being forceful on one side but her department creating issues for her on the other. In particular, it notes that the Home Secretary at times did not feel “supported” by her department.
The report says: “The Home Secretary has also become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness,” but then continues, saying “that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing”, adding that this “has been the effect on some individuals”.
Crucially for Ms Patel, the report states that “instances of the behaviour reported to the Cabinet Office” would meet the definition of harassment and bullying and breached the Ministerial Code.
It is commonly considered prudent for a Minister to resign if they are found to have breached the Ministerial Code, as Ms Patel also did when she resigned as International Development Secretary in November 2017 over suggestions that she had misled the Prime Minister about the nature of meetings she had held while abroad.
The report’s author also noted “the finding of different and more positive behaviour since these issues were raised with her”. Ms Patel was reportedly not advised of the problem herself at first.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to the report by dismissing the allegations and saying the Home Secretary retained his “full confidence”. This led the report’s author, Sir Alex Allan, to resign from his role as an independent advisor on Ministerial Standards.
The BBC also reports that Sir Alex Allan resisted pressure to make the report’s findings more “palatable”.
Ms Patel said in a statement: “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.”