Home Office chief quits after rows with Priti Patel and plans to sue Government

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Department for Transport (DfT) permanent secretary Philip Rutnam answers questions at the House of Commons Transport Committee over the fiasco surrounding the West Coast rail franchise.
Sir Philip Rutnam has resigned and plans to sue the government (Picture: PA)

A top civil servant at the Home Office has quit his job and launched a blistering attack on Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam claimed he had been the target of a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” which he accused Patel of orchestrating.

In a statement released by his lawyers on Saturday, he said: “The Home Secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office.

“I regret I do not believe her. She has not made the effort I would expect to dissociate herself from the comments.

“Even despite this campaign I was willing to effect a reconciliation with the Home Secretary.

“But despite my efforts to engage with her, Priti Patel has made no effort to engage with me to discuss this.

“I believe these events give me very strong grounds to claim constructive, unfair dismissal and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts.”

Read more: Home Secretary Priti Patel: no stranger to controversy

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street in central London on February 13, 2020 as the prime minister reshuffles his cabinet. - Britain's prime minister revamped his top team on February 13 in his first cabinet reshuffle since taking Britain out of the European Union. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of bullying staff (Picture: Getty)

The resignation comes after tensions between Patel and Sir Phillip boiled to the surface last weekend with various reports about a rift between the two.

Sir Philip made light of those reports when he made he appeared at a police summit in London on Thursday.

But he made clear his feelings in his statement on Saturday, which he read to the BBC outside an address in north London.

He said he took the decision to quit “with great regret after a career of 33 years” and added he would be issuing a claim against the Home Office for constructive dismissal.

Read more: Priti Patel calls Jeremy Corbyn 'rude' after he heckles her in House of Commons

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a rally event as part of the General Election campaign, in Colchester, England, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn paused to honor the two people killed in the London Bridge attack, then went back to trading blame for the security failings that allowed a man who had been jailed for terrorist crimes to go on a violent rampage in the heart of London. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)
Priti Patel's supporters have denied she's a bully (Picture: Getty)

Sir Mark Sedwill, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, said: “I have received and accepted with great regret the resignation of Sir Philip Rutnam.

“I thank him for his long and dedicated career of public service.

“Shona Dunn, the Second Permanent Secretary at the Home Office responsible for borders, immigration and citizenship, will become Acting Permanent Secretary with immediate effect.

“The Home Office’s vital work to keep our citizens safe and our country secure continues uninterrupted.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel visit a security control room in Port of Southampton, England, Monday Dec. 2, 2019, ahead of the general election on Dec. 12. (Hannah McKay/Pool via AP)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel (Picture: AP)

Patel was accused of bullying officials last week when it emerged she sought to remove Sir Philip after the pair were involved in a series of arguments, the Times reported.

It was also reported Mark Thomson, the director-general of UK Visas and Immigration and HM Passport Office, planned to leave his role because of disagreements with Ms Patel.

Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) member Mick Jones told the Guardian Thomson was leaving because of disagreements with the Home Secretary on immigration policy.

Jones said: ‘He’s indicated to our reps that it was mainly because they had had major run-ins.

‘It was clear that [Patel] had come in and was trying to do things that they [Home Office officials] just weren’t comfortable with and [Thomson] sort of said “I’m off then”.’

The Home Office denied Thomson left because of a dispute, adding: ‘This is categorically untrue.

‘Mark Thomson made the decision to leave the Home Office before the current Home Secretary was appointed.’

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