Boris Johnson says he will ‘stick by’ Priti Patel under fire from Labour | Politics

Boris Johnson has given the government’s strongest backing yet for Priti Patel in the wake of fresh bullying allegations, insisting the home secretary was doing an “outstanding job”, as Jeremy Corbyn demanded an independent inquiry into whether she had broken the ministerial code.

Patel was alongside Johnson on the frontbench during prime minister’s questions as he told the Commons she was keeping the country safe by increasing the number of police officers on the streets and bringing in a system to “tackle our migration crisis”.

He said: “The home secretary is doing an outstanding job: delivering change, putting police on the streets, cutting crime and delivering a new immigration system – and I’m sticking by her.”

Allegations emerged on Tuesday night that the home secretary had bullied a third civil servant, her private secretary, who had to sign off from work with stress. It allegedly occurred when she was international development secretary between 2016 and 2017.

Patel denies all the allegations against her.

Sir Philip Rutnam dramatically resigned as Home Office permanent secretary on Saturday, claiming he had been subjected to a briefing campaign against him that had been condoned by Patel, and he has begun legal action against the government for constructive dismissal.

A former aide to Patel, who was previously an employment minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, was also allegedly given a £25,000 payout after taking an overdose of prescription medicine following alleged bullying.

Corbyn said the prime minister must make the findings of any investigation public, but that he was pushing for an independent procedure as the government could not be “judge and jury” on whether a cabinet member had broken the ministerial code.

The Labour leader said: “Will he now commit to an independent investigation into the home secretary’s conduct led by an external lawyer and commit to a date when its findings will be made public?”

Johnson replied that it was right there should be an investigation into any allegations of bullying and that is what the Cabinet Office was doing. He said it would be led by Sir Alex Allan, the prime minister’s independent adviser on ministerial standards.

He said: “She is keeping this country safe by putting in record numbers of police officers. She believes in stopping the early release of offenders and she is bringing in a system to tackle our migration crisis with an Australian-style points-based system.”

Hitting back at Corbyn, he added: “He would scrap stop and search. He believes in getting rid of our security services and he certainly wouldn’t tackle our immigration system.”

Corbyn said: “It’s about whether he will release the findings of an investigation into the home secretary’s behaviour. A government cannot be judge and jury over its own conduct. There has to be an independent element to that investigation.”

He said the fresh allegations from Patel’s time at the Department for International Development suggested a “shocking and unacceptable pattern of behaviour” across three government departments.

Corbyn’s spokesperson subsequently revealed that Labour had been handed details of further questions about the home secretary’s conduct in recent days. “We have been contacted by former staff of Priti Patel saying there are additional allegations of bullying,” the spokesman said.

Mocking the prime minister over his previous use of crass language to discuss wasted money, Corbyn said: “On each occasion, tens of thousands of pounds of hard-earned taxpayers’ money has been spaffed up the wall to buy their silence,” and asked Johnson whether he was aware of the allegations and if he was, why had he appointed Patel.

Johnson replied: “The home secretary is doing an outstanding job. I have every confidence in her. If there are allegations, of course it’s right they should be properly investigated by the Cabinet Office and that is what is happening.”

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