In Brief

Ex-Home Office chief launches tribunal claim against Priti Patel

Philip Rutnam takes action under whistleblowing laws removing any cap on his payout

The former Home Office chief Philip Rutnam has lodged an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and whistleblowing against Home Secretary Priti Patel.

A statement from the civil servants union the FDA revealed that Rutnam, who resigned in February over bullying claims against Patel, officially began legal proceedings on Monday.

Announcing the start of the legal action, the general secretary of the civil service union the FDA, Dave Penman, said: “This morning Sir Philip, with the support of his legal team and the FDA, submitted a claim to the employment tribunal for constructive dismissal and whistleblowing against the home secretary.”

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The fact that whistleblowing is included in the allegations is significant because it means that any compensation award would be uncapped. The payout from a standard unfair dismissal claim would be limited to £85,000.

Although Patel has not commented publicly on the allegations, Whitehall sources insist that she denies them. 

However, The Guardian says the development “will increase pressure on Patel” and on “Boris Johnson, who has publicly backed his home secretary”.

When he stepped down in February, Rutnam, who was the Home Office's most senior official, said there had been a “vicious and orchestrated” campaign against him.

When he quit, Rutnam said he received allegations that Patel's conduct towards employees included “swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands”.

Allegations that Patel bullied staff emerged in February in The Times, which reported she had been accused of belittling officials in meetings, making unreasonable demands and creating an “atmosphere of fear”. 

Then, The Guardian reported that she was accused of emerging from an office saying: “Why is everyone so f***ing useless?”

In an email to Home Office staff last month, Patel said she “deeply cared” about the “wellbeing” of her civil servants and valued their professionalism.

A government spokesperson said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

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