Boris Johnson's advisor on ministerial standards quit after the UK PM stood by interior minister Priti Patel despite a probe concluding she had bullied staff.
“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,” said Alex Allan, who led the investigation into Patel.
“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
The report concluded Patel had not met the standards expected of a minister and that she had bullied staff.
Cabinet ministers found to have breached the ministerial code are generally expected to resign. But the government said the prime minister had “full confidence” in Patel and “considers this matter now closed”.
Patel said she was “sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people”.
“I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated,” she said, but added that “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,” Patel added in a statement.
Patel has been under investigation since March after several civil servants accused her of bullying. The top civil servant in the Home Office, Philip Rutnam resigned that month, saying Patel had belittled employees and fostered an environment of fear in the department. She denied the allegations.
The investigation’s conclusions were published Friday after months of delay by Johnson’s office.
Allan concluded that Patel “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," he said. "To that extent, her behaviour has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally.”
Patel was appointed by Johnson to the key post responsible for immigration and crime-fighting after his December 2019 election victory. A law-and-order hard-liner, she has vowed to stop migrants trying to cross the English Channel from France in small boats, though without much success.
Colleagues defended Patel. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said she was “an excellent home secretary and really delivering on things that matter to people,” while International Trade Secretary Liz Truss called her “compassionate, determined, hardworking and professional.”