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29 February 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 3:46pm

The Home Office’s top official explains why he’s quitting the government

Philip Rutnam, the Home Office's permanent secretary, has quit and will sue the government for constructive dismissal. 

By Philip Rutnam

I have this morning resigned as permanent secretary of the Home Office.

I take this decision with great regret, after a career of 33 years. I’m making the statement now because I will be issuing a claim against the Home Office for constructive dismissal.

In the last ten days, I had been the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign. It has been alleged that I have briefed the media against the Home Secretary. This, along with many other claims, is completely false.

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 efforts I would expect to disassociate herself from the comments. Even despite this campaign, I was willing to effect a reconciliation with the Home Secretary, as requested by the Cabinet Secretary on behalf of the Prime Minister.

But despite my efforts to engage with her, Priti Patel has made no effort to engage with me to discuss this. I believe that these events give me very strong grounds to claim constructive, unfair dismissal, and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts. My experience has been extreme, but I consider there is evidence that it was part of a wider pattern of behaviour.

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One of my duties as permanent secretary was to protect the health, safety and well-being of our 35,000 people. This created tension with the Home Secretary, and I have encouraged her to change her behaviours. I have received allegations that her conduct has included shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands, behaviour that created fear and needed some bravery to call out. I know that resigning in this way will have very serious implications for me personally.

The Cabinet Office offered me a financial settlement that would have avoided this outcome. I am also aware that there will continue to be briefing against me now I have made this decision. But I am hopeful that at least it may not now be directed towards my colleagues or the department. This has been a very difficult decision, but I hope that my stand may help in maintaining the quality of government in our country, which includes hundreds of thousands of civil servants loyally dedicated to delivering this government’s agenda. I will make no further comment at this stage.

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