Who is Sir Philip Rutnam? Senior civil servant who quit Home Office amid Priti Patel row

Stephanie Cockroft
·2-min read
 (PA Archive/PA Images)
(PA Archive/PA Images)

From the West Coast rail fiasco to the Windrush scandal, Sir Philip Rutnam faced controversy in his civil service career before apparently becoming embroiled in a row with the Home Secretary.

The senior civil servant said he had been the target of a "vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign" which he accused Priti Patel of orchestrating as he quit his post on Saturday.

Born in Bromley, London, in 1965 and educated at Cambridge and Harvard, Sir Philip joined the civil service in 1987.

He was appointed as Permanent Secretary to the Home Office in April 2017, replacing the current head of the civil service Sir Mark Sedwill.

This followed five years in the same role at the Department for Transport, where he oversaw the fallout from the West Coast rail fiasco in 2013.

Sir Philip said a damning report into the botched bidding process was "a blow" after taxpayers were faced with a bill of more than £50 million when the West Coast franchise was scrapped.

As the most senior civil servant in the Home Office, Sir Philip, who was knighted in 2018, presided over the department during the Windrush scandal.

In 2018, ministers faced a furious backlash over the treatment of the Windrush generation - named after a ship that brought people to Britain from the Caribbean in 1948.

Long-term UK residents were denied access to services, held in detention or removed despite having lived legally in the country for decades.

Amber Rudd quit as home secretary over the row after she "inadvertently misled" MPs by saying there were no targets for the removal of illegal immigrants.

Sir Philip criticised Priti Patel during his resignation statement PA
Sir Philip criticised Priti Patel during his resignation statement PA

An internal report found that officials had failed to provide her with the correct information.

Although the report raised concerns about senior aides, it stopped short of criticising Sir Philip.

Rumours of a rift with Ms Patel, who was appointed Home Secretary in July last year, emerged earlier this month .

The pair released a joint statement in an attempt to quell reports of a feud.

Sir Philip made a joke of any potential disagreement at the National Police Chiefs' Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners summit in Westminster on Thursday.

"You probably have already heard a great deal more about permanent secretaries in the last few days than you ever expected to," he said.

But in his attack on Saturday , Sir Philip said the Home Secretary had made "no effort" in any potential reconciliation between the two.

His CV also includes stints as director general at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a board member at Ofcom and posts at the Treasury.

Additional reporting by PA Media.