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Colleagues defend UK ‘benevolent’ minister Patel over harassment report

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LONDON (Reuters) – Colleagues defended British Home Secretary Pati Patel on Friday after the BBC and other media reported that an investigation into allegations of harassment against her concluded that she had broken ministerial rules.

Photo Photograph: Priti Patel, now British Home Secretary, leaves after a cabinet meeting on Downing Street in central London, UK June 27, 2016. REUTERS / Toby Melville

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged officials in March to conduct an investigation to establish the facts after allegations were made against Patel, one of the oldest ministers in the government.

This followed the resignation of Philip Rutnam, a senior interior ministry official, who claimed Patel had been guilty of harassing staff.

Citing unnamed sources, the BBC, other broadcasters and UK newspapers said a draft report revealed that Patel had broken the ministerial code – saying ministers should treat officials with respect – and that there was evidence of harassment, though unintentional.

In my extensive relationship with Priti Patel there has been nothing but polite and kind, Health Minister Matt Hancock, who said he had not read the report, told Sky News, echoing other messages of support on Twitter.

Patel has always denied allegations of harassment.

The report by the independent government adviser on standards ended in the summer, but Johnson did not publish it, leading to allegations that he was making a concealment.

The issue comes at a difficult time for Johnson, who is trying to reinstate his government after his top adviser Dominic Cummings left Downing Street last week and the prime minister clashed with rifts within his ruling Conservative Party over its policies. his COVID-19.

The process is ongoing and the prime minister will make any decision on the issue once the process is complete, a government spokeswoman said following media reports.

Several media reports suggested that Johnson could address the issue on Friday, but would not issue any remarks to Patel.

His government has had a difficult relationship with senior officials, with some having left their posts since his election last December, as part of what was seen as Cummings’ desire to shake up the civil service.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Home Affairs spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said the full report should be published and the Independent Committee on Standards in Public Life should investigate Johnson and Patel.

Written by Sarah Young and Michael Holden; edited by Alistair Smout

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