Two senior civil servants at the Department for International Development have said they were aware of bullying complaints against Priti Patel while she was head of the aid budget.
Sir Mark Lowcock, Ms Patel’s permanent secretary while she was head of the Department for International Development (Dfid) said that he personally witnessed bullying behaviour.
Nick Dyer, who took over from Sir Mark when he started a new role at the UN, was also made aware of complaints against Ms Patel.
Sir Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, speaks at a press conference in December last year. Sir Mark, Ms Patel’s permanent secretary while she was head of the Department for International Development (Dfid) said that he personally witnessed bullying behaviour
Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives at The Home Office on Tuesday after attending a Cabinet Meeting
Nick Dyer, who took over from Sir Mark, told the Times that he was made aware of the bullying complaints against Ms Patel
The Times Newspaper reported that Downing Street aides were also informed of the complaints made by civil servants working for Ms Patel.
‘We certainly knew the relationship with her civil servants was not easy,’ a special adviser in No 10 told the Times.
‘There were concerns about her methods of working’.
Allies of Priti Patel on Tuesday blamed her former top civil servant for dragging her into a row about an aide who took an overdose amid claims of bullying.
Sources close to the Home Secretary said it was ‘ludicrous’ to accuse her of being responsible for the woman’s legal case against the Government, arguing that it had started long before Miss Patel took office.
The MP has been under fire for weeks after being accused of bullying staff during her time as a minister and the Cabinet Office is leading an inquiry to ‘establish the facts’ over whether she breached the ministerial code in her dealings with aides.
Miss Patel came under renewed pressure on Monday when it emerged that one of her former aides when she was employment minister took an overdose and received a £25,000 payout from the Government.
Priti Patel arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain on February 13, 2020. Sources close to the Home Secretary said it was ‘ludicrous’ to accuse her of being responsible for the woman’s legal case against the Government, arguing that it had started long before Miss Patel took office
Miss Patel had shouted at the woman in her private office and told her to ‘get lost’ and ‘get out of her face’, legal correspondence alleges.
The minister is described in the woman’s formal grievance complaint as having acted ‘without warning’ and with an ‘unprovoked level of aggression’.
The Department for Work and Pensions did not admit liability and the case did not come before a tribunal, the BBC reported.
But yesterday Miss Patel’s allies hit back. One said: ‘It’s ludicrous to drag Priti into this.
‘This person only worked for Priti for two weeks and was already in the process of quitting when Priti took over as employment minister.
‘The accusations of bullying were made against the department, not Priti, and the payout was made by the Civil Service – which, by the way, mishandled her case entirely. It was nothing to do with Priti at all.’ The allies blamed friends of Sir Philip Rutnam, the former top official at the Home Office, for spreading the ‘false’ allegations.
A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutman speaking before the Home Affairs Committee in Parliament, central London on February 27, 2019
Sir Philip resigned on Saturday following an extraordinary briefing row with Miss Patel after he accused her of belittling staff in the department.
He said he had become the ‘target of a vicious and orchestrated campaign against him’, which he alleged she was involved in.
But Miss Patel’s friend said: ‘It’s actually very serious that a civil servant had mental health issues and attempted to take her own life because of the way she was treated by her civil service colleagues.
‘And it’s childish and stupid for anonymous friends of Philip Rutnam to push around false stories about civil service mistakes which she [Miss Patel] had nothing to do with.’ The row came after Boris Johnson asked the Cabinet Office to ‘establish the facts’ around bullying claims. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the inquiry will examine all the complaints, although it is unclear if the Department for Work and Pensions claim is included. The PM has already offered Miss Patel his support, calling her a ‘fantastic Home Secretary’.
Yesterday, it emerged she has sent an internal email to staff saying she regretted Sir Philip’s resignation and calling on her department to pull together.
Asked yesterday if Mr Johnson knew about the DWP allegation, his official spokesman said: ‘The Home Secretary denies any allegations of bullying and the PM has expressed full confidence in her. An inquiry is under way.’
Sir Philip could not be reached for comment.