Priti Patel must step down over bullying allegations, Labour says

‘You cannot have a minister who is in breach of the ministerial code and she should step down now,’ says shadow home secretary

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 03 March 2020 08:54 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn presses Boris Johnson about Priti Patel bullying investigation

Labour’s Diane Abbott has called on Priti Patel to step down as home secretary while the Cabinet Office conducts an inquiry into bullying allegations levelled against her.

The shadow home secretary made the comments after Boris Johnson was forced to launch an investigation in the wake of the explosive resignation of the top civil servant at the Home Office.

It also emerged on Monday that a former aide to Ms Patel received a £25,000 payout after allegedly being bullied in 2015 by the minister. The BBC said it had seen legal correspondence claiming the woman had taken an overdose following the incident, when Ms Patel was a employment minister.

Addressing the allegations on Radio 4’s Today programme, the senior Labour MP said the government must establish a “genuinely independent inquiry”.

“To restore confidence in the respect that the government has for its civil servants, we want a genuinely independent inquiry,” Ms Abbott said.

She went on: “We’ve had other allegations come up overnight and unless you have a conclusive, independent inquiry this thing may well run on.”

“This is a major department, this is a serious allegation. You cannot have a minister who is in breach of the ministerial code and she should step down now.”

“I must say it will be better if she stepped down. We’re calling on her to step down while the inquiry goes on.”

The shadow home secretary also suggested an external lawyer should be brought in to lead the inquiry into bullying allegations against Ms Patel, who denies the claims.

Telling MPs the Cabinet Office would investigate the claims, cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Monday: “Allegations have been made that the home secretary has breached the ministerial code. The home secretary absolutely rejects these allegations.

“The prime minister has expressed his full confidence in her, and having worked closely with the home secretary over a number of years, I have the highest regard for her, she is a superb minister doing a great job.

“This government always takes any complaints relating to the ministerial code seriously, and in line with the process set out in the ministerial code the prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to establish the facts.”

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