priti patel
© Helen William/PA Media
Sir Philip Rutnam and Priti Patel. In his resignation statement, Rutnam said he had been falsely accused of briefing the media against the home secretary.
The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, is under pressure to face questions in parliament over the resignation of her department's top civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, amid bullying accusations.

The Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer called on Patel to explain the explosive allegations levelled against her by Rutnam.

The Home Office's permanent secretary quit on Saturday after accusing Patel of orchestrating a "vicious" campaign against him, of lying about her involvement in it and of creating a climate of fear in her department.

Starmer said: "The home secretary has a duty to come to parliament on Monday to explain the allegations made about her own conduct."

He has also called for the cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, to launch an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding Rutnam's departure.

"There are now urgent questions that must be answered and steps that need to be taken," he added.
MP
Asked if Patel could stay in post, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told Sky's Sophy Ridge programme: "I can't see it, it's bizarre."

He added: "One of the ways the prime minister could go forward is to have an independent investigation but during that period you'd have to suspend the home secretary whilst that went on."

Rutnam's resignation also led to calls from opposition MPs and the senior public servants' trade union for the prime minister to put a stop to what they claim is a campaign by his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, to undermine the civil service.

It comes two weeks after Sajid Javid quit as chancellor when Boris Johnson ordered him to fire his team of aides.

In his statement, Rutnam said the campaign against him included "false" claims that he had briefed the media against the home secretary.

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."

Rutnam said his experience "has been extreme but I consider there is evidence it was part of a wider pattern of behaviour. One of my duties as permanent secretary was to protect the health, safety and wellbeing 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 that needed some bravery to call out.

"I know that resigning in this way will have serious implications for me personally - the Cabinet Office offered me a financial settlement that would have avoided this outcome.


Comment: Hush money?


"I am 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."

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA - the trade union for senior civil servants, which will back Rutnam's legal case - said Rutnam had been offered the chance to "resign and go quietly with financial compensation" but had instead chosen to speak out against "attacks on civil servants". It is expected that Rutnam will demand a public hearing at which he can outline his case against Patel.

Penman added: "The Home Office now needs to find new leadership at a time when it needs stability. Those who engage in anonymous briefings need to bear the responsibility for this destructive behaviour."

Sedwill issued a brief statement shortly after Rutnam quit, saying he had accepted his resignation "with great regret" and adding: "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," he said.

"The Home Office's vital work to keep our citizens safe and our country secure continues uninterrupted."