Priti Patel says she is 'absolutely sorry' in first interview after bullying report

Cat Neilan
·57-min read
Priti Patel said she was sorry for causing any upset - AFP
Priti Patel said she was sorry for causing any upset - AFP

Priti Patel has said she is "absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset" in her first interview since the revelations about the report into allegations of bullying were revealed. 

The Home Secretary has kept her job despite the report concluding she had "not consistently met the high standards expected of her". 

With Boris Johnson standing by his Cabinet minister, the report author and Prime Minister's ethics adviser Sir Alex Allan has resigned. 

Speaking this afternoon, Ms Patel said: ""I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day and we work together day in day out to deliver on the agenda of this Government and I'm absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset."

"I'm sorry my behaviour has upset people and I've never set out to upset anyone...I am absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset."

Earlier today Mr Johnson said he had "full confidence" in his Cabinet minister "and considers this matter now closed", a spokesperson said. 

"As the arbiter of the code, having considered Sir Alex’s advice and weighing up all the factors, the Prime Minister’s judgement is that the Ministerial Code was not breached." 

Follow the latest updates below.

05:55 PM

And that's it for another week...

It was a busy week for Boris Johnson, whose plans to reset his relationship with the party and the rest of the country were derailed by having to self-isolate all week. 

The Prime Minister gamely tried to press on, appearing in the first ever virtual PMQs and delivering a statement about the biggest defence budget boost since the Cold War. But it all felt a bit... remote.

Boris Johnson: Very remote - PA
Boris Johnson: Very remote - PA

Things got even worse when Brexit talks were halted after a member of Michel Barnier's team tested positive, but thankfully they resumed remotely this morning. There is still hope that a deal can be reached by early next week - essential if we are to meet the deadline for ratification before the year end. 

Today was dominated by the long-awaited Priti Patel report. Despite finding that she had "not consistently met the high standards expected of her", Mr Johnson backed "the Prittster" and called on his MPs to do likewise. They were in the main more than obliging. 

You felt the same. A whopping 2,250 people voted in today's poll, with 72 per cent backing the Home Secretary, with just 28 per cent fearing the scandal follows hot on the heels of similar allegations against Dominic Cummings. 

That's it for today - I'll be back on Monday morning with all the news from Westminster and beyond. 

05:44 PM

Matt Hancock plans 'small Christmas' within existing social bubble

The last question is about how long the regulator will take to authorise vaccines. 

Matt Hancock says it is "absolutely a question for them", adding: "I don't want to give even any impression of tryinv to impinge on their independence - it wouldn't work, even if I tried."

The application in the US to the FDA "has given us the confidence formally to start the process here", he adds. 

He is also asked what his plans are for Christmas, which he says will involve "a small family Christmas" perhaps with his father in law who lives alone and is in his bubble.

That would be allowed under current rules he says. 

He doesn't want to comment further because nothing has been agreed with the four nations yet. 

And that is it, the press conference is over. 

05:40 PM

Prof Van-Tam: There will be 'just a few weeks' between vaccine priority categories

The next question is about disinformation about the vaccine and how concerned he is about it putting people off getting a jab. 

Matt Hancock says "all of mainstream science supports the use of vaccines where they are safe" and the safety is assured by the fact it will be "signed off by the regulator, which is independent". 

He says a huge amount of work is going into ensuring "objective, factual information about a vaccine is made available". 

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam says the regulator, the MHRA, are clear there is no difference to the rigour or standards they will apply to Covid vaccines before authorising them. 

He says he is "eager" to take a vaccine himself and will be telling his mum to do so. "I just don't propose to give it any air time because it is just that - misinformation," he adds. 

There is more anxiety about when it will be available and where people are on the authority list, says JVT. But people "shouldn't worry too much" because the difference will just be a few weeks, he says, adding "over". 

05:33 PM

Matt Hancock: NHS ready to deploy vaccine from next month

Matt Hancock has stressed that systems are in place to get the vaccinations delivered once they are ready to be deployed. 

"The uncertainty is over the regulatory authorisation... and then over the manufacturing and the speed at which any vaccine can be manufactured," he said. 

"However we are ensuring that we are ready to deploy, should all of that go right, from next month," he adds, although stresses the "bulk" of the roll out will be in the new year and it will "take a few months" to get through all the groups. 

05:31 PM

There is a 'dual responsibility' over Christmas to be sensible, says Prof Van-Tam

Jonathan Van-Tam says the Government "wants to give us a break at Christmas... but there are no magic numbers about one day of Christmas, n days of lockdown". 

He says it is about having "a sensible Christmas" and whether people comply the rules that are put in place over that period. If they don't, cases will rise again, he adds, saying there is "a dual responsibility". 

On how long it will take to authorise a vaccine, he says the regulator must be left to carry out their work. 

"Do I believe we are now on the glidepath to landing this plane? Yes I do," he adds, although notes that "sometimes on a glidepath you can have a sidewind and the landing is not totally smooth, totally textbook."

05:29 PM

Matt Hancock: Government will keep people safe over Christmas, but allow socialising

The next question is about the impact of easing restrictions over Christmas, and whether it is worth it. 

Matt Hancock says there is an "emotional attachment to seeing family over Christmas" which is why they are working on. 

But it depends first on how low the R-rate is. He notes there is also mass testing available now. 

The Government will take an approach that keeps people safe but allows them to see their family. 

He is also asked about Priti Patel, and points to her apology, saying it is important that people are always treated with respect. 
 

05:24 PM

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam reveals he is having to self-isolate as he urges caution despite flattening in cases

The next question is about the levelling off in cases, with rates still rising in London and the Midlands. Does it have to be falling in all areas for a Christmas unlock?

Matt Hancock says he hopes the numbers do start to fall, and the change in trajectory has been seen in all parts of England. 

"We watch each day's data vigilently," he adds, saying they are just at the starting point of seeing it flatten off. 

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam reveals he is having to self-isolate because of a household contact.

He notes that data is from a few days ago and it could well be that the regions with rising rates "will turn". He says he expects that to happen but it will have to come through in the data. 

"We should be cautious about interpreting that, and please everyone remember it just takes a few seconds to create infections through unneeded close contact," he adds. 

05:20 PM

Matt Hancock: We are near the peak of the second wave

The first question from journalists is about how strict post-Christmas restrictions might be. 

Matt Hancock says that work is being carried out "right now" and it is too early to tell, although data shows "the peak is clearly... we are clearly near the peak of this second wave". 

The decisions still have not been made. 

During Christmas itself, he says it is important to have a set of rules that will keep people safe but enables them to see family. He hopes they will be consistent across all four nations "but there will have to be rules in place, because we want to keep people safe too". 

05:18 PM

Matt Hancock says low income support helps people 'do the right thing'

The next question is about support for working families whose children have to self-isolate. 

Matt Hancock says there is a system of support in place, so that people who are eligible for Universal Credit can get a £500 package. 

This allows many people to "do the right thing" by self-isolating, he adds. 

05:17 PM

No vaccine priority for BAME individuals, says Health Secretary

The first question from the public is about the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME communities, and whether they will get vaccine priority after the elderly and most vulnerable. 

Matt Hancock says it is a "critical question", but notes the overall assessment that the joint committee has made so far is that the most important factor is age and the need to protect those who are looking after the most vulnerable. 

He asks Prof Van-Tam to set out more details. The deputy chief medical officer says there is relatively little he can add, because "far and away the biggest risk factor" is age and chronic underlying conditions. 

Much of the impact of health outcomes on BAME communities is because of co-morbidities, he says. 

"What is now really important is that the vaccine is accessible to all communities, irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds, and people come forwards when they are called," he adds. 

05:13 PM

Hospital admissions 'levelling off', says NHS boss

Prof Stephen Powis starts by showing the single slide they have started using, demonstrating hospital admissions. 

It shows a "levelling off" over the last few days, although he stresses it is too early to conclude anything from this. 

However there is evidence that as a result of restrictions that infections are falling, so they will see whether this "translates into a flattening and hopefully reduction of inpatients". 

Hospital admissions
Hospital admissions

He also warns about impact of the winter months, and that NHS staff are keen to get through the backlog of patients with other ailments. 

05:10 PM

Covid vaccinations to start next month, confirms Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock says the roll out will be a massive logistical challenge, but he knows the NHS can do it. 

Vaccination centres are now being set up around the country that can help store the vaccine at lower than -70*. 

There will be a community roll out, involving GPs, he says. 

It has been devised to be flexible and reach all parts of the country. 

The timing and speed of the roll out will depend on manufacturing, which is "difficult and uncertain". 

"If approved, we will be ready to start vaccinations next month with the bulk of the roll out in the new year," he adds. 

05:07 PM

Pfizer vaccine takes first step in UK authorisation, Matt Hancock confirms

The Health Secretary then hails the record number of flu vaccinations given, and confirms that free flu vaccines will now be given to all over-50s. 

"This winter of all winters it is important you get your jab", he says, because catching flu and Covid together is very dangerous. 

The best scientific brains have been working on a coronavirus vaccine, Matt Hancock adds, saying we should be very proud of the part we have played "to find a vaccine for all of humanity". 

He notes the "encouraging results" published over the last few weeks and the "more positive news" today that the first step to authorise a vaccine in the UK is for the Government to ask the regulator to assess its suitability. 

The Government has done that with the Pfizer vaccine, he confirms. They have already started to submit data to the MHRA. 

05:03 PM

Matt Hancock heralds 'promising' signs of infection rates flattening

Matt Hancock is joined remotely by NHS boss Stephen Powis - who is self-isolating - and Jonathan Van-Tam. 

He starts by going through the new data, which shows a slight decrease on the rolling daily cases. 

Taken together with the ONS figures, he says it shows  "promising" signs that infection rates are flattening. 

But there were 511 deaths in the UK from coronavirus yesterday, he says. 

04:57 PM

Ministerial 'standards have fallen' since Boris Johnson became PM, says Lord Kerslake

A former head of the civil service, has said that Priti Patel's refusal to resign was "reprehensible", claiming that "standards have fallen since Boris Johnson became Prime Minsiter". 

Lord Kerslake said Ms Patel should have quit after a Cabinet Office report found she was guilty of bullying and that if she refused to go Boris Johnson should have sacked her.

"It is absolutely a clear-cut breach of the code on a very serious issue of bullying. In those circumstances in any other time the minister would have gone," he told the BBC.

"We expect higher standards from our Government. We expect them to follow the highest possible standard of behaviour. She hasn't met it, she should go and the fact that she isn't going is in my view just reprehensible."

He added: "I think it will worry people that when we are under pressure, push comes to shove, political expediency will trump proper standards of conduct and behaviour. I have to say - and I don't like saying this - that the standards have fallen since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister."

04:41 PM

Home Affairs committee chair demands copy of Priti Patel report

The chair of the Home Affairs select committee has requested a copy of the investigation into Priti Patel so MPs can consider allegations of misconduct and bullying.

Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP, said: "The issues raised by Sir Alex Allan's inquiry are extremely serious, and his resignation in the light of the Prime Minister's response makes them doubly so.

"I am therefore asking the Cabinet Secretary to provide the Home Affairs Select Committee with a copy of the full report as a first step so that we can consider the issues it raises on misconduct, bullying and the operations of the Home Office.

"Public servants working in Government departments must never be bullied by ministers or treated with disrespect and they need to know there are standards and safeguards in place to prevent that happening.

"The apparent breakdown of an effective working relationship between the Home Secretary and senior Home Office officials during this period also raises serious questions.

"The country cannot afford to have a distracted Home Office at a time when the department faces urgent challenges from the Windrush reforms to post-Brexit security co-operation."

Yvette Cooper wants to read the report in full - Reuters
Yvette Cooper wants to read the report in full - Reuters

04:38 PM

Priti Patel says she is 'absolutely sorry' for upset caused amid bullying claims

Priti Patel has said she is "absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset" in her first interview since the revelations about the report into allegations of bullying were revealed. 

The Home Secretary has kept her job despite the report concluding she had "not consistently met the high standards expected of her". 

With Boris Johnson standing by his Cabinet minister, the report author Sir Alex Allan has resigned. 

Speaking this afternoon, Ms Patel said: "I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day.

"I am absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset."

04:30 PM

Analysis: Who or what constrains Donald Trump during the transition period?

Who or what constrains Donald Trump? That question has been asked endlessly throughout his first presidential term but in the wake of election defeat, with his hands still on the levers of power, it is once again being pondered.

In the two weeks since election day, which saw US voters switch Mr Trump with Joe Biden, the US president has sacked his defence secretary, replaced senior Pentagon officials with loyalists and dismissed his top election security official.

He has announced new US troop withdrawals in Afghanistan and Iraq, reportedly pondered some form of retaliatory strike on Iran for its growing nuclear program and is said to be considering further tough action on China.

That was in a fortnight. There are two months to go until inauguration day, when Mr Trump is due to hand power to Mr Biden. 

04:15 PM

Jeremy Warner: No, Brexit has not been a disaster for the City

Finance was the major cause of the last big economic crisis, but during the Brexit referendum and subsequently it has found itself – unusually for an industry used to being demonised – part of the solution rather than the problem.

Initially, the Government had hoped for a Canada-plus type arrangement, which almost uniquely for a free trade agreement, would have included some form of continued access for finance to European markets. It was not to be. Britain’s unilateral offer of “equivalence” has not been reciprocated.

But here’s the point. During the referendum, there were warnings of a likely bloodbath of City jobs if Britain voted to leave, but so far it just hasn’t happened on anything like the scale feared.

04:04 PM

'No sticking points, no disagreements' in four nation planning for Christmas

Mark Drakeford has said "there are no sticking points, there are no disagreements" regarding discussions between the UK nations about plans for Christmas.

He said the four chief medical officers have been asked to "look together at the detailed work that is being done" on whether restrictions can be eased over the festive period, and provide their views.

The Welsh First Minister said: "I'm generally hopeful that we will reach an agreement on a range of issues, but travel is the one I think which is most important to us in Wales because of the permeable nature of our border.

"But the other things that will need to be thought about are how long any period of relaxation might last, the extent to which a greater degree of household mixing might be possible during any period of relaxation, how we factor in things like movement of people from one part of the country to another."

He said the UK nations will also have to "plan together" for the fact that as people mix and get together at Christmas, coronavirus will spread.

Mark Drakeford  - Getty
Mark Drakeford - Getty

03:54 PM

Boris Johnson 'absolutely not' setting precedent for code breaking over Priti Patel, says MP

A Conservative MP and former special adviser has said standing by Priti Patel is "absolutely not" setting a precedent for ministers to stay on after they break the ministerial code. 

Claire Coutinho said there was not "tolerance of bullying", stressing that relationships had improved and progress made within the Home Office, adding: "What is very clear is that the PM has decided she has not broken the ministerial code.

"As soon as she was made aware, relationships improved, she has also apologised... the most important thing now is whether the Home Secretary and perm secretary can get on."

Claire Coutinho was Rishi Sunak's Spad
Claire Coutinho was Rishi Sunak's Spad

03:46 PM

MP and former Spad defends decision to stick by Priti Patel

An MP and former special adviser has defended Boris Johnson's decision to overrule the ethics adviser on Priti Patel. 

The Home Secretary had "occasionally" shouted but had apologised on those "unintentional" instances, she said. 

Claire Coutinho, MP for East Surrey and one-time Spad for Rishi Sunak, told Sky News it was "not very clear" that she had broken the ministerial code and that the Prime Minister had used his discretion to decide she had not. 

She noted that as the Home Secretary and Sir Philip Rutnam's replacement Matthew Rycroft were "happy working together I think we should let them get on with their jobs". 

"Alex Allan himself actually said the PM was right to take the final decision," Ms Coutinho added. 

03:25 PM

'Best case scenario' is for vaccine programme to reach critical mass by April, says hospital boss

The head of England's biggest NHS hospital trust has said in a "best-case scenario" it could take until April to vaccinate enough people to make a difference against Covid.

The NHS is planning to begin vaccinating people under 50 from the end of January, trade mag Health Service Journal reported today. 

But Dr David Rosser, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust chief executive, said: "It's pretty clear vaccination is not going to appear en masse until probably the beginning of February at the earliest.

"It is encouraging, (that) there are signs we might have some vaccine to vaccinate care home residents and the most vulnerable before then.

"But the big truckloads of stuff is not going to come in before February - that seems pretty clear."

03:17 PM

Cressida Dick refuses to comment on Home Secretary's behaviour

Cressida Dick has given Priti Patel the lightest of praise, refusing to be drawn on the Home Secretary's personal behaviour. 

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police told LBC Radio he would not comment on the report itself, stressing she had "a very productive working relationship with this Home Secretary, as I have with the last one... and the one before, and the one before that."

Asked to comment on Ms Patel's behaviour rather than the report, Commissioner Dick replied: "I pride myself on not being a gossip, so I wouldn’t be commenting whoever it was.  I’m not going to comment.  The Home Secretary is our Home Secretary and she works closely with me and she’s highly engaged with policing."

Asked if she recognised the description of the Home Secretary as a bully, she added: "I’m not going to get drawn into this, I’m really not, I wouldn’t whoever it was and I wouldn’t… it’s not appropriate for me, as a senior police officer, to talk about this."

03:12 PM

Brexit talks have made 'better progress', says EU chief

Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal have made "better progress" in recent days, the president of the European Commission has said, raising hopes that an agreement may be in sight.

Ursula von der Leyen said there were still "quite some metres to the finish" but that there had been "more movement" on important issues.

"After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good," she said. "Progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid," she said.

"There are quite some metres to the finish line. Indeed, time pressure is high without any question at the moment," she said.

Her cautiously upbeat assessment comes after face-to-face negotiations were temporarily suspended on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier's EU negotiating team tested positive for Covid-19.

03:10 PM

Nine angry men: the big names that have quit under Boris Johnson

To misquote the magnificent Lady Bracknell, to lose one official might be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose nine looks like something of a purge. 

After Sir Alex Allan resigned today, that is the number of top civil servants and advisers Boris Johnson has gone through in under a year. Here's the full list: 

  1. Sir Philip Rutnam set a trend when he quit as the top civil servant at the Home Office this year. He triggered the report into Ms Patel, accusing her of bullying and a"vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign" against him.

  2. A nonchalent-looking Sir Simon McDonald told MPs that a "political decision" had been taken not to join the EU pandemic procurement scheme. Despite a statement saying he mispoke, the Foreign Office permanent secretary left shortly after. 

  3. Sir Mark Sedwill, the former cabinet secretary, left by "voluntary agreement" in June, after months of hostile briefings and reports of clashing with Dominic Cummings 

  4. The Ministry of Justice's Richard Heaton left his role after five years in July. 

  5. The Department for Education's permanent secretary Jonathan Slater was one of a handful of scalps claimed over the exams row, although Nick Gibb and Gavin Williamson remained in their posts. 

  6. Sir Jonathan Jones, head of the Government's legal service, quit amid reports of a despite over the UK Internal Market Bill.

  7. At the start of last week Lee Cain was tipped for promotion, but within 24 hours the director of communications had suddenly quit.

  8. After losing a power battle Dominic Cummings left Number 10 a week ago today, although will be working from home until mid-December.

  9. Sir Alex Allan quit today after being overruled by the Prime Minister on Priti Patel.     

02:20 PM

Union boss blasts 'complete absence of political leadership' over Priti Patel affair

The boss of the civil servants' union has attacked the "complete absence of political leadership" shown over the Priti Patel affair. 

Dave Penman, general secretary of the civil servants' union the FDA, said: "We've seen two resignations on principle at either side of this sorry affair, and in the middle a complete absence of political leadership and moral authority from the Prime Minister.

"I cannot believe he does not understand how civil servants will view his decision to ignore the evidence that the Home Secretary bullied her staff and, as such, breached the ministerial code. The only conclusion that can be reached is he simply doesn't care.

"No civil servant will now have confidence that any complaint raised about ministerial behaviour will be dealt with fairly or impartially.

"As Lord Evans, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has said, this episode raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the current arrangements for investigating and responding to breaches of the ministerial code.

"It's clear we now need an independent and transparent process where bullying and harassment allegations against ministers can be dealt with effectively, free from political interference."

02:03 PM

Have your say: Should Priti Patel have resigned over bullying allegations?

Boris Johnson has overruled his ethics adviser and stuck by Priti Patel, saying he has "full confidence" in the Home Secretary amid improving relations between her and the civil servants. 

Tory MPs have been emphatic in their support for their colleague, with one telling me: "There is a lot of Oxbridge brogue-wearing type civil servants who did not want to take orders from an Asian woman who doesn't pronounce her Gs, was holding them to account and asking them act to implement her strategy, which they didn't agree with."

But there has been widespread opposition to the decision, not only from MPs but also Gus O'Donnell and chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Evans . 

So should she have resigned? Or is the Prime Minister right to stick by her? Have your say below. 

01:52 PM

Further 326 people die with coronavirus in English hospitals

A further 326 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 37,796.

Patients were aged between 29 and 100 years old. All except six, aged 50-82, had known underlying health conditions. The date of death ranges from 11 September to 19 November 2020.

The North East and Yorkshire was the worst-affected region, with 101 deaths, followed by the Midlands (73) and North West (59). 

There were 29 deaths recorded in the South East, 25 in London, 20 in the South West and 19 in the East of England.  

01:50 PM

UK's R-rate falls towards one, Sage figures show

The official reproduction number, or R-rate, of coronavirus transmission across the UK has dropped closer to one, Sage figures have confirmed.

The estimate for the R-rate for the whole of the UK is between 1 and 1.1, down from between 1 and 1.2 last week. 

The R-rate represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.

An R number between 1 and 1.1 means that on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 11 other people.

This morning a Kings College study estimated that in some parts of the country, the R-rate was now well below one. 

01:41 PM

Gus O'Donnell: Priti Patel should have resigned

Former cabinet secretary Lord (Gus) O'Donnell said Priti Patel should have resigned.

The man who was once dubbed "God" because of his power within Whitehall (and his initials) told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "Every minister - it's their responsibility to obey the ministerial code.

"The Prime Minister thinks there has been no breach of the ministerial code. I, personally, take the judgment of Alex Allan that actually there was a breach of the ministerial code.

"For something like bullying, I think in that case - it's a bit like what would happen in the private sector, you just wouldn't, and within the civil service, there are things like this, you would just say that's just beyond the pale."

Gus O'Donnell: Once the most powerful man on Whitehall - Getty
Gus O'Donnell: Once the most powerful man on Whitehall - Getty

01:32 PM

Committee on Standards in Public Life to hold urgent review of Priti Patel affair

The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Evans of Weardale, said it is "deeply concerning" that Sir Alex Allan has resigned as the Prime Minister's adviser on ministerial standards.

Lord Evans, the former director general of MI5, said the committee would be looking "urgently" at what had happened as part of its review of the ministerial code.

"Sir Alex Allan is a man of great wisdom and integrity and it is deeply concerning that he has resigned," he added. 

"This episode raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the current arrangements for investigating and responding to breaches of the Ministerial Code.

"The Committee will be looking at this urgently as part of its review."

Lord Evans said the ethics adviser's resignation was "deeply concerning" - PA
Lord Evans said the ethics adviser's resignation was "deeply concerning" - PA

01:29 PM

Boris Johnson 'loathes' bullying, says press secretary

Boris Johnson "loathes" bullying and does not believe Priti Patel is a bully, his new press secretary has said. 

"These were extremely serious allegations that were made and that have been dealt with in detail, not just by Sir Alex Allan but also by the Prime Minister," Allegra Stratton said.

"The Prime Minister does personally take these allegations exceedingly seriously.

"He loathes bullying. He takes it very seriously and recognises that it is very difficult for people to come forward and raise concerns. It is a brave thing to do. He knows that.

"He did say that he would not tolerate bullying. He hasn't tolerated bullying. It is not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully."

Allegra Stratton will be holding televised press briefings from January - Reuters
Allegra Stratton will be holding televised press briefings from January - Reuters

01:21 PM

Lobby latest: Priti Patel report will not be published in full, Downing Street says

The full report into the Home Secretary's conduct is unlikely to be published in order to protect those who gave evidence, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We've published the summary of the findings this morning but obviously, in order to protect the confidentiality of participants in the exercise, it wouldn't be right or proper to publish any details that would be able to identify them."

Asked whether Boris Johnson had pre-judged the findings of the report by offering Priti Patel his backing in March, the No 10 spokesman said: "We wouldn't accept that."

Boris Johnson is standing by Priti Patel - Reuters
Boris Johnson is standing by Priti Patel - Reuters

01:21 PM

Lobby latest: PM does not consider Priti Patel a bully - but has never acted as she did, says Downing Street

Boris Johnson does not consider Priti Patel to be a bully, but has never shouted or sworn at his own staff, Downing Street has said. 

Pointed out to him that it was anti-bullying week, the official said: "The Prime Minister stands against bullying but, as we've been clear, and as the Home Secretary's apology sets out, it was never her intention to cause upset to anyone."

Asked whether Mr Johnson regarded the Home Secretary to be a bully, the Prime Minister's official spokesman added: "No, as I said, the Home Secretary has apologised for any inadvertent upset she has caused and the Prime Minister is reassured by that.

"The Prime Minister continues to have huge admiration for the Civil Service and the way they continue to drive forward the Government's agenda and that hasn't changed."

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel - Charlotte Graham
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel - Charlotte Graham

01:17 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson 'took a different view' to bullying report on Priti Patel, says Downing Street

Boris Johnson read the report into Home Secretary Priti Patel's behaviour but disagreed that the ministerial code had been broken, Downing Street has said. 

"The Prime Minister took advice from his independent adviser Sir Alex Allan and, as you've also seen, the Home Secretary has this morning apologised," Mr Johnson's official spokesman said.

"The PM is reassured that the Home Secretary is sorry for inadvertently upsetting those whom she was working with but, ultimately, as the arbiter of the ministerial code, weighing up all of the factors, the Prime Minister doesn't believe there is a breach.

"The Prime Minister did come to a different view having weighed up all the different factors. He is also reassured that relationships in the Home Office are much improved, and that's the basis on which he took the decision."

Sir Alex resigned following the decision. 

Sir Alex Allan resigned after being overruled
Sir Alex Allan resigned after being overruled

01:15 PM

Boris Johnson takes bullying 'extremely seriously', says press secretary

The Prime Minister's press secretary Allegra Stratton has said he takes issues of bullying "extremely seriously", as he stood by Priti Patel today.

"I think it is clear to the Home Secretary and to her team, and I hope it is clear to the country, that he does take this issue incredibly seriously," she said.

"He recognises that it is extremely difficult for individuals to come forward and raise these concerns with their bosses. He does understand that. He is grateful to those civil servants who have done so."

Ms Stratton said that Sir Alex Allan, who has resigned as the Prime Minister's adviser on ministerial standards, had made the point that Ms Patel's conduct needed to be seen in context and that Mr Johnson was pleased that there was now a "more positive" relationship with civil servants.

"It is Sir Alex Allan who is saying to the Prime Minister that there are mitigating factors and the Home Secretary's behaviour needs to be seen in context," she said.

"The Prime Minister has to look at this case in the round and for these reasons - as the ultimate arbiter of the ministerial code - he has made these decisions today."

01:01 PM

Man who threatened to kill Theresa May and other MPs jailed for two years

A man who threatened to kill Theresa May while she was prime minister has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Wajid Shah emailed Mrs May, and sent similar messages to former home secretary Lord Blunkett, Baroness Lister, MPs Tan Dhesi and Caroline Nokes, and former MP Mark Lancaster. 

The 27-year-old had denied sending the "abusive" and "disturbing" messages. 

In a victim impact statement read to the court by prosecutor Barry McElduff, Mrs May said the "extremely offensive, threatening and disturbing" message to her left her "feeling anxious and concerned".

She explained she had received abusive messages before, but "what made this one different was the explicit and repeated threat to kill me".

Theresa May: "What made this one different was the explicit and repeated threat to kill me". - WireImage
Theresa May: "What made this one different was the explicit and repeated threat to kill me". - WireImage

12:54 PM

Watch: What we now know about the data that put us into lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced England would enter a second lockdown on October 31, flanked by Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. 

The trio presented a series of slides, filled with data and graphs justifying heavy restrictions across the nation, which they said were necessary for curbing the virus.

However, the data wasn’t as up-to-date as it could have been and new figures paint a different picture, suggesting the Government's tiered system was in fact working, begging the question: was a second lockdown needed?

 Camilla Tominey dives into the data which sent us into a winter lockdown. 

12:51 PM

Scotland's travel ban 'vital', claims Nicola Sturgeon

Travel restrictions in Scotland are "vital" to ensure there is no need for a national lockdown, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

People will be legally prohibited from travelling in or out of areas in Level 3 and 4 as part of new regulations from 6pm on Friday. The regulations also ban Scots from travelling to other parts of the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to abide by the new regulations, which could see a £60 fine levied against those who violate the rules, unless a "reasonable excuse" such as caring responsibilities, hospital appointments or exercise.

She said: "These travel restrictions - nobody likes them, I don't like them - but they are vital in helping us minimise these risks.

"They are vital in helping us avoid having the whole country in the same level or restrictions.

"It is these travel restrictions that mean that even although the central belt has to be in Level 4, we can avoid the Highlands or Edinburgh or parts of the country with lower prevalence being in Level 4 too."

12:42 PM

Homecare workers to be included in mass testing from next week

Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly coronavirus tests from next week, as the Government moves to identify more asymptomatic cases and protect the most vulnerable people in society. 

Helen Whately, care minister, praised homecare workers for doing "an incredible job throughout the pandemic, caring day in and day out and going the extra mile to keep people they care for safe from Covid".

She added: "As our testing capacity continues to expand, I'm glad we're able to take this next step and make regular testing available to homecare workers. Now, as well as having personal protective equipment (PPE), homecare workers will be able to take a weekly test to check they don't have coronavirus.

"We now have the largest testing capacity in Europe, so we're using this to protect those who are at greater risk if they catch Covid."

12:30 PM

Labour MPs slam 'spineless, hypocritical, pathetic' response to Priti Patel report

Labour frontbenchers are responding angrily to the Prime Minister's decision to stand by Priti Patel, after a report into allegations about her behaviour found that she had "not consistently met the high standards expected of her". 

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: "Does anyone in this cabinet believe they are accountable for anything?"

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said it was "spineless, hypocritical and pathetic failure of leadership".

12:19 PM

Boris Johnson should have sacked Priti Patel, says Lib Dem leader

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: "Priti Patel has broken the Ministerial Code, the PM should have sacked her.

"It's the PM's job to set an example, but once again Johnson has failed. He seems to believe there is one rule for him and his friends and another rule for everyone else. Totally unacceptable."

12:13 PM

Priti Patel's former Spad calls for apology from civil service

Priti Patel's former special adviser has called for the civil service to apologise for failing to support ministers, saying it would be "a long time coming". 

James Starkie, who worked with the Home Secretary as well as Michael Gove, noted the "systemic failures" that had caused a series of scandals including Windrush.

12:09 PM

Priri Patel shouted and swore at civil servants, says Boris Johnson's ethics adviser

Priti Patel's frustrations had seen her shout and swear in some instances, ethics adviser Sir Alex Allan has said. 

In his published advice, he said: "She is action-orientated and can be direct.

"The Home Secretary has also become - justifiably in many instances - frustrated by the Home Office leadership's lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in DfID (the now defunct Department for International Development) three years ago.

"The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing.

"This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals."

12:07 PM

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel should 'face questions on their conduct', says Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has said Boris Johnson has been "found wanting" after he stood by Priti Patel, despite a report suggesting she breached the ministerial code. 

Despite calls for the Home Secretary to resign, ethics adviser Sir Alex Allan has fallen on his sword.

The Labour leader said: Yet again, the Prime Minister has been found wanting when his leadership has been tested. If I were Prime Minister, the Home Secretary would have been removed from her job.

"It is hard to imagine another workplace in the UK where this behaviour would be condoned by those at the top. The Government should be setting an example. Instead, it is one rule for Boris Johnson and his friends, another for everyone else.

"The Prime Minister has previously said he ‘loathes bullying’. Yet when one of his own ministers is found to have bullied their staff he ignores the damning report sat on his desk and instead protects them."

He called on Mr Johnson and Ms Patel to "face questions on their conduct" in the Commons on Monday.

Sir Keir Starmer says he would have sacked Priti Patel - AFP
Sir Keir Starmer says he would have sacked Priti Patel - AFP

11:42 AM

Unions threaten industrial action over Rishi Sunak's 'con job' public sector pay freeze

Unions have warned that a freeze on public sector pay could prompt industrial action as they attack Rishi Sunk's plans as “an attack on all working people”.

The Chancellor is expected to set out the details of his public sector pay freeze in next week’s spending review, limiting pay rises to at or below inflation. Frontline NHS doctors and nurses are expected to be exempt, in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

This morning Mr Sunak said: "We've provided over £200 billion of support to protect the economy, lives and livelihoods from the significant and far-reaching impacts of coronavirus.

"This is the responsible thing to do, but it's also clear that over time it's right we ensure the public finances are put on a sustainable path."

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, told Radio 5 Live it was “not about fairness - this is a con job”. 

 “It just makes no sense. Public sector workers spend their pay rises in private sector retail, private sector hospitality, private sector hairdressers... This is an attack on all working people and it makes no sense economically.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, added: "If Rishi Sunak fails to pay public sector workers properly, there will be widespread anger and industrial action cannot be ruled out."

11:41 AM

Priti Patel apologises for having 'upset people'

Priti Patel has issued an apology, acknowledging her behaviour might have "upset people". 

The Home Secretary said in a statement: “I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people. It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone. I am very grateful for the hard work of thousands of civil servants who help to deliver the Government’s agenda.

“I care deeply about delivering on the commitments we have made to the people of this country and I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated.

“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his support. The Permanent Secretary and I are working closely together to deliver on the vital job the Home Office has to do for the country.”

Priti Patel this morning
Priti Patel this morning

11:39 AM

Macron demands Brexit FTA is translated into French - even if it risks accidental no deal

Emmanuel Macron is insisting that the UK-EU trade deal must be translated into French before he will support it, even if it means risking a no deal Brexit. 

Trade negotiations were halted on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for coronavirus and time is running out for a deal to be agreed in time so it can be ratified before transition ends.

Mr Macron’s ambassador told the European Commission this morning at a meeting of senior diplomats in Brussels that the deal had to be translated into French before it got to MEPs for scrutiny. 

"A French version of the deal is key for Paris to approve the deal," a diplomatic note seen by The Telegraph revealed.  My colleague James Crisp has the full details

Macron: Je ne comprends pas - AFP
Macron: Je ne comprends pas - AFP

11:31 AM

Madeline Grant: A bloody good war might distract us from these days of Hancockian misery

Conflict provides the perfect antidote to domestic turmoil. In fin de siecle Russia, Tsar Nicholas II's interior minister, Vyacheslav von Plehve, reportedly recommended "a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution".

The rout that followed in the Russo-Japanese War spelled disaster for the Romanovs, with the annihilation of the Baltic fleet and bloodshed outside the Winter Palace. However, von Plehve may have been on to something, as Madeline Grant realised during Boris Johnson's defence statement on Thursday. 

As the PM burbled merrily about lasers, aircraft carriers and rockets in the Scottish Highlands, she felt more excited about a few new frigates than she had been about anything for months. When he vowed to "restore Britain's position as the foremost naval power in Europe" our columnist sensed the shade of Jack Aubrey roaring: "Huzzah!" 

11:01 AM

Union warns of industrial action over public sector pay freeze

Rishi Sunak's public sector pay freeze could spark industrial action across the country, the boss of a union has said. 

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said his members had "kept the country running" during the pandemic, alongside other workers.  

"Our members have been providing universal credit, collecting tax, securing our borders and prisons in this unprecedented pandemic and have already suffered 10 years of pay restraint," he said. 

"Private companies have been allowed to secure lucrative Covid contracts to the tune of £17bn, yet ministers are not prepared to reward their own staff for all the incredible work they have done this year.?

"If Rishi Sunak fails to pay public sector workers properly, there will be widespread anger and industrial action cannot be ruled out.

10:51 AM

Liz Truss praises 'my friend' Priti Patel

Liz Truss has joined the slew of Conservatives to publicly back Priti Patel, amid calls for the Home Secretary to be sacked over the report into bullying allegations. 

The International Trade Secretary called her Cabinet colleague "my friend" as she praised the work she had done in the role since last summer. 

"She is a great person - compassionate, determined, hard working and professional," she added.

10:44 AM

R-rate falls to below one in tier three areas, data suggests

The UK's R-rate is below one in parts of the country that were under tier three restrictions before the national lockdown, data suggests. 

The R-rate represents the average number of people someone with Covid-19 goes on to infect.

A study based around the the Zoe coronavirus app run by King's College London suggests the R-rate in England at 1.0, and at 0.9 in Wales and Scotland.

But it said "worryingly the east of England and especially the Midlands are both seeing numbers still increasing with R values of 1.1 and 1 respectively."

Meanwhile, the North West and North East and Yorkshire areas both have R values of 0.9 as cases decline.

In the South East, London and South West cases are not declining, the researchers said, and the R is 1.

10:34 AM

Have your say: Should Priti Patel resign over bullying allegations?

Priti Patel is facing renewed calls to resign as Home Secretary, after some details of the report in bullying allegations emerged overnight. 

Conservative MPs including ministers such as Matt Hancock and James Cleverly have backed Ms Patel, saying she is kind and courteous, but Labour and the FDA are calling for her to go. Dave Penman, the boss of the civil service union FDA, said her staying would show Boris Johnson thought "bullying is OK as long as it’s in a limited and specific way."

He also noted it was not the first time she broke the ministerial code. She was sacked by Theresa May back in 2017 after undisclosed meetings with a string of Israeli politicians and a protocol-breaching trip to the Golan Heights. 

So should she go, or will an apology suffice? Have your say in the poll below. 

10:21 AM

Priti Patel behaviour 'not acceptable in other workplaces', claims Labour MP

Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds believes the Priti Patel bullying inquiry report "smacks of one rule for the government and another rule for everybody else".

He told BBC Breakfast that the accusations made against Home Secretary would not be acceptable in other workplaces.

Watch the interview in the video below. 

10:05 AM

EU and UK negotiators 'both close' to Brexit deal, as trade talks get remote

An EU official has told ambassadors in Brussels that the EU and Britain are "both close" to reaching an agreement but differences persist over fishing rights, guarantees of fair competition and ways to solve future disputes.

Chief Brexit negotiators suspended direct talks yesterday after a member of Michel Barnier's team tested positive for Covid-19.

However talks resumed this morning, with officials working remotely in a last-ditch attempt to clinch a trade deal that would come into force in just six weeks.

It had been hoped a deal could be announced as early as Monday next week, however the fact talks are taking place virtually could slow the process down. 

09:51 AM

Fraser Nelson: There will be no Boris reset until he breaks the endless lockdown cycle

Having almost died from Covid-19 – and testing negative again a few days ago – Boris Johnson can be pretty sure of being virus-free.

But he was “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app so is dutifully self-isolating for a fortnight. Confined to Downing Street, he has to work out how to save Christmas.

His scientific advisers warn him that if the country is “released” (their word) for five days – as he proposes – he’d need to pay for it by locking down for a further 25 days. So he has ended up spending this week as a prisoner of his own policies, both physically and politically.

Last time, he was bounced into lockdown by officials who leaked classified (and, as it turned out, dodgy) data.

This time, argues Fraser Nelson, it can be different.

09:44 AM

Covid-related pay freezes are a kick in the teeth for public sector workers, says NAHT

The boss of the school leaders union has attacked plans to freeze public sector pay saying it is " a huge kick in the teeth for millions of school staff". 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said while the costs of Covid been "significant", Rishi Sunak was "looking for the wrong solution to the problem of balancing the national budget". 

He added: “The teaching profession has already endured a decade of pay freezes, in contrast to pay growth in the private sector. This made teaching an uncompetitive career option for graduates who have looked to other sectors to build their careers. The government’s plans will make a dire situation even worse.

“The civic response to Covid has been characterised by the willingness of public sector workers, school staff included, to go the extra mile. Public sector workers have been critical to the national effort. They have also endured personal losses and tragedies.

"It is entirely wrong for the government to expect dedicated public servants, some of them often on low rates of pay already, to be the ones to shoulder the responsibility of paying for the costs of Covid incurred by the Treasury."

09:36 AM

Scientists working 9 to 5 on a vaccine - and countering disinformation

While the Government tries to grapple with the rise of disinformation and the anti-vaxxer movement, a group of scientists from across the world is using social media to try and reassure young people about new Covid-19 vaccines.

The group, Team Halo, is made up of clinicians and researchers from institutes across the world and aims to build confidence in the jabs, which are hoped to hold the key for a return to normal life.

Following the news about the Moderna vaccine - which was partly funded by Dolly Parton - Dr Anna Blakney, a research fellow at Imperial College London, recorded a version of her hit 9 to 5 to explain her work on the university's own vaccine.

They have also posted a video countering a recent study suggesting face masks might not work. 

09:27 AM

Vaccine programme will be 'one of biggest civilian projects in history', says Matt Hancock

The vaccine roll-out programme "one of the biggest civilian projects in history", Matt Hancock has said. 

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is training under way now. We've changed the law to change the number of clinically qualified people who can vaccinate because this is going to be one of the biggest civilian projects in history.

"It will be led by the NHS, who have of course the annual experience of a mass vaccination programme in flu, and it will involve GPs, it will involve the broader NHS as well, and hospitals.

"We have got this enormous flu vaccination programme and then the likely big numbers, if it comes off, and I stress the 'if', will be next year for a Covid vaccine but we still hold out the hope that we might get some going in December this year."

The Health Secretary said the "deep freezers" were already "stabilising over the last few weeks" in order to be ready for the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70C, and confirmed the NHS would have "access to any resources of the state they might need" to assist with the mass administering of vaccines.

09:18 AM

Unlocking at Christmas could lead to 'tens of thousands' more Covid cases, says Cambridge professor

Socialising at Christmas could lead to "tens of thousands" of more Covid cases, requiring an extra clampdown, a Cambridge professor has said. 

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that each day of relaxation of coronavirus rules at Christmas could need five days of tighter restrictions "doesn't sound implausible".

The statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge added: "It is quite plausible that a few days of relaxing would lead to tens of thousands of more cases and that means extra deaths and measures needed to bring those under control.

"There is a big difference though because when (we're told) we need to save lives, we don't know whose lives we're saving.

"If somebody though dies or is hospitalised after getting Covid at Christmas, you are going to know who they are and I think the potential regret in anticipation of that might make people really quite careful."

He also predicted that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus - 16,000 people at present - would this winter exceed the 17,000 peak reached in spring, adding: "This will be a real slog."

09:01 AM

Government 'pick-pocketing' public sector pay to cover cost of 'irresponsible procurements'

A senior figure from one of the biggest unions in the country has accused the Government of "pick-pocketing" money from workers to cover the cost of money wasted through "irresponsible procurements".  

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of trade union Unite, said the public sector pay freeze was an "insult".

"As we're talking there are carers helping the elderly get ready for the day ahead, in schools we've got teachers getting ready to settle down children... and they're entitled to ask 'what have they done wrong'?" she told Times Radio.

"It's just awfully unfair, this is a predominantly female workforce, many are bread-winners in their families and they can't afford to continue to shoulder the burden of one crisis after another.

"If you earn more working in retail than you do caring for the population then that speaks volumes doesn't it?"

08:43 AM

Matt Hancock: We want to give some joy at Christmas

Matt Hancock said he hoped people could have "some joy" at Christmas after a tough year.

"We do hope over Christmas to agree a set of rules across the UK, because so many people travel around the UK, and that work is ongoing," the Health Secretary said today. "But there will have to be rules in place, we just hope to be able to get something of the yearning people have to see their loved ones at Christmas and to have some of that joy that Christmas brings. But it has to be careful."

The Cabinet minister told Radio 4' sToday Programme: "Christmas is a special time of year and we've had such a difficult year in 2020 - it has been such a terrible year and having some hope, some joy at Christmas, I know that would be welcomed by so many people.

"So we are trying to agree across the UK a set of rules that allows for that joy but keeps people safe."

Mr Hancock said transmission levels were "slightly" different in each part of the UK, but added: "Across the UK as a whole, we are now seeing that flattening of the curve."

08:33 AM

Public sector pay free 'deep and damaging betrayal', says Police Federation chief

Plans to freeze public sector pay would be "a very deep and damaging betrayal" of those who have put themselves on the frontline, the chair of the Police Federation has said. 

John Apter told Radio 5 Live: "This will be seen as a very deep and damaging betrayal because of everything that has been expected of my colleagues during this crisis year. We have stepped up and kept the country moving [...] it shouldn't be a race to the bottom." 

Freezing public sector wages for three years would save £23 billion, the Centre for Policy Studies argues in a new report out this morning.

08:26 AM

Matt Hancock 'planning small family Christmas' but says he might see 'some' loved ones

Matt Hancock is planning for a s"mall family Christmas" that would work "within the existing rules", suggesting the doveish Cabinet minister is not expecting much in the way of liberation next month. 

The Health Secretary told Sky News  he hoped it would be possible to see "some" loved ones and that the Government would be able to make things "a bit more like normal", while also keeping the virus under control. 

He added work was still being undertaken to deliver a UK-wide approach, which suggests travel and overnight stays will be allowed - but the big question is how many people can get together at once.

08:21 AM

Matt Hancock dodges question about whether he pushed for health workers' pay freeze exemption

Matt Hancock refused to comment on whether he had pushed for health workers to be exempt from the public sector pay freeze to be announced by Rishi Sunak next week, as he admitted the fly vaccine programme was adding further pressure to the NHS. 

He told BBC Breakfast that despite the scale of the programme, he hoped the process would be "relatively straightforward."

"I don't deny that it's a huge amount of work for the NHS and I'm very grateful for the unbelievable shift they've pulled this year and we've still got to deliver this this winter," the Health Secretary said.

"There are of course pressures on the NHS this year - by God there's pressures, thanks to Covid - and for everybody who works in the NHS I want to say thank you for the work that you are doing.

But asked if he had made the case for them to be exempt from the pay freeze, he said he would "not get into" private discussions with Cabinet colleagues. 

08:18 AM

Boris Johnson accused of 'prime ministerial cover-up' over Priti Patel affair

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of a "prime ministerial cover-up" over bullying allegations against Priti Patel and his refusal to sack the Home Secretary. 

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the report into her behaviour should be published "in full, line by line" and both Ms Patel and the Prime Minister should answer questions in the Commons "because the revelation in recent days have been extraordinarily serious."

He added: "I'm afraid this really does have all the hallmarks of a prime ministerial cover-up and raises questions about his judgment.

"If what has been reported is correct, then it is tantamount to the Prime Minister condoning bullying."

Mr Thomas-Symonds said he had, given the nine-month delay in finalising the investigation into Ms Patel's conduct, "lost confidence in this process" and said the matter should be referred to the Committee on Standards in Public Life for a "full investigation to take place and establish the facts".

The shadow home secretary accused Boris Johnson of a "prime ministerial cover-up" - PA
The shadow home secretary accused Boris Johnson of a "prime ministerial cover-up" - PA

08:14 AM

'Broad parameters' to UK-wide Christmas travel agreed this week, says Mark Drakeford

'Broad parameters' to UK-wide travel over Christmas were agreed during a meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and leaders of the the devolved administrations this week, with another meeting planned for next week.

Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "We agreed some broad parameters on Wednesday and remitted officials of all four administrations to work now on the detail, so I remain hopeful that it will be possible to reach a four-nation approach to Christmas.

"I certainly think that is the right thing to do - if it is achievable - and certainly Wales will be at the table next week looking to find an agreement."

Mr Drakeford said an agreement on permitting travel across the UK during the Christmas season was "top of the list of things to agree", even if a wider agreement was not possible.

"I really do hope we can have a common approach to travel," he added.

08:13 AM

Matt Hancock dodges question about public sector pay freeze

Matt Hancock has dodged questions about the public sector pay freeze, stressing that the details will be laid out during next week's spending review. 

It is thought Rishi Sunak will cap pay rises for all public sector workers at inflation, except frontline doctors and nurses, in a bid to restore public finances. 

Asked about reports, the Health Secretary said simply: "These questions are a matter for the chancellor.

"He'll set out the measures next week. I can't answer that question."

07:58 AM

Matt Hancock: I am 'very proud' to serve with Priti Patel

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast that he felt "very proud" to serve in the Cabinet with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

"I think she's doing an excellent job and is an excellent Home Secretary and really delivering on things that matter to people," he said.

"In all the dealings I've ever had with her she's been nothing but courteous."

07:56 AM

Matt Hancock: Priti Patel is a brilliant Home Secretary

Matt Hancock refused to be drawn on whether Priti Patel should be fired in the wake of the bullying inquiry leaks, insisting she was "nothing but courteous".

"The truth is she's also absolutely determined to deliver on the priorities on which we were elected," the Health Secretary told Times Radio.

"She's a brilliant Home Secretary."

Mr Hancock said that it would be "premature" to comment on the issue before the findings of the report into Ms Patel's behaviour had been published.

Priti Patel is thought to be planning to apologise  - Reuters
Priti Patel is thought to be planning to apologise - Reuters

07:34 AM

UK 'must hire specialists for hi-tech future wars'

The Armed Forces must recruit "specialists" in fields such as cyber technology rather than concentrating on personnel numbers if they are to win future wars, the Defence Secretary has said.

Ben Wallace said Britain must also become a world-beater in military satellites, lasers and drones as well as on traditional battlefields as he detailed how the Government would use a £24 billion increase in defence spending which is expected to create 40,000 jobs.

Boris Johnson announced that GCHQ, MI6 and the Ministry of Defence would pool their resources to create a new National Cyber Force to protect the UK from online attacks. 

It would be tasked with protecting military hardware from being hacked by hostile states, as well as disrupting terrorist cells or destroying servers hosting material threatening national security.