UK home secretary Priti Patel has expressed her “regret” over the recent resignation of the top civil servant in her ministry, Sir Philip Rutnam, and stressed that she valued the work of all her aides in the UK Home Office.
In her first response to the controversy surrounding Rutnam’s shock exit over the weekend amid allegations of bullying, the Indian-origin minister addressed the Home Office staff in an email on Tuesday to stress that she “deeply cared” about the well being of civil servants and called on her team to come together.
“We both regret Sir Philip’s decision to resign. We both deeply value the work that every person in this department does and care about the well-being of all our staff,” she said in the internal email, jointly written with Rutnam’s successor Shona Dunn, who is the acting permanent secretary.
“It is therefore a time for us all to come together as one team. We also recognise the importance of candour, confidentiality and courtesy in building trust and confidence between ministers and civil servants. Both of us are fully committed to making sure the professionalism you would expect to support this is upheld,” read the email, quoted by the BBC.
Patel sought to focus on delivering the government’s priorities, including implementing a new points-based immigration system, and called on the Home Office team to help deliver that agenda.
The email adds: “We have one of the most important jobs to do, keeping people safe and our country secure and delivering on the government’s priorities, which were endorsed by the British people at the recent general election.
“Our work continues, and our focus must be on working, in partnership with you, to deliver this agenda as the public would expect,” she said.
The email follows days of controversy surrounding the minister’s conduct, including fresh allegations of bullying while she was an employment minister in 2015.
The UK Cabinet Office has launched an inquiry to “establish the facts” but the Labour Party has mounted pressure on the government to widen the scope of the inquiry and also demanded Patel’s resignation.
Rutnam had resigned with an explosive television statement about a “vicious” campaign against him and also made references to Patel allegedly “shouting, swearing and belittling people” in her department.
He has declared that he plans to take the government to court for his unfair dismissal.
Over the course of the controversy, Patel has received the backing of prime minister Boris Johnson, who described her as a “fantastic home secretary”, who is doing one of the toughest jobs in the country.