Priti Patel says she 'never intentionally set out to upset anyone' after bullying probe found she broke ministerial code

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she is "absolutely sorry" after an official inquiry into her conduct found she bullied staff and broke ministerial conduct.

However, the home secretary is to keep her job after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he has "full confidence" in Priti Patel and judged that she had not broken the ministerial code prompting the resignation from the author of the report, Sir Alex Allan.

In a broadcast interview, Ms Patel said: “I’m sorry that my behaviour has upset people and I’ve never intentionally set out to upset anyone.

“I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day and we work together day in day out to deliver on the agenda of this Government and I’m absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset.”

Sir Alex Allan said she had "not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect".

The report said: "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."

Ministers are usually expected to offer their resignation if they have been found to have broken the ministerial code.

Paul Brand has analysis on Boris Johnson's response, and how the public might disagree:

Sir Alex concluded Ms Patel's behaviour - which was said to include some occasions of shouting and swearing - met the definition of bullying adopted by the civil service.

He has since resigned as the PM's adviser on Ministerial Standards following Mr Johnson's decision to stand by his home secretary.

Announcing his resignation, Sir Alex said: "I recognise that it is for the Prime Minister to make a judgement on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the ministerial code.

"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."

Boris Johnson asked the Cabinet Office to ‘establish the facts’ behind the allegations against his Home Secretary Credit: PA

Ms Patel, who has always denied allegations of bullying, apologised, saying she is "sorry" that she has upset people with her behaviour.

Prime Minister Johnson, who has stood by Ms Patel since bullying allegations surfaced in February, now considers the matter to be "closed", a government statement said.

The statement went on: "As the arbiter of the code, having considered Sir Alex’s advice and weighing up all the factors, the Prime Minister’s judgement is that the Ministerial Code was not breached."

It added Mr Johnson is "reassured" that Ms Patel is "sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working".

The report noted Ms Patel was "unaware" of the impact of her behaviour because no feedback was given to her at the time.

In an earlier statement, Ms Patel said: "I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated.

"I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his support. The Permanent Secretary and I are working closely together to deliver on the vital job the Home Office has to do for the country.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Ms Patel would have been "removed from her job" if he was prime minister.

He said: "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."

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Sir Keir urged Mr Johnson and Ms Patel to answer questions on the issue in the House of Commons, as he called on the government to release the report in full.

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.

Ms Patel has expressed concern at the "false" claims, and allies have described her as a "demanding" boss but not a bully.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV News she had always been "courteous and kind" in all his dealings with her.