The Home Office’s permanent secretary has said a department report examining the advice given by civil servants to former home secretary Amber Rudd ahead of her resignation is “naturally confidential” as he defended the decision not to publish the review.
Sir Philip Rutnam told the Home Affairs Select Committee that the review he commissioned from former Ministry of Justice chief Sir Alex Allan was “a confidential report to me as permanent secretary and to the cabinet secretary as the head of the civil service” and it was difficult to publish it as a result.
However, Rudd’s successor as home secretary Sajid Javid said that he may decide to order the release of some details.
Rudd told the committee on 25 April there were no targets for immigration removals, but she was subsequently forced to reveal that targets did exist, an error that led to her resignation.
Following this, Rutnam announced that Allan, who is the prime minister’s advisor on ministerial standards, would examine the quality of the information provided to the home secretary ahead of that committee hearing.
This review has been completed, and MPs on the committee have privately received a three-page executive summary. Rutnam said he would consider whether there was more he could release, but that there were privacy concerns about further publication.
“That is naturally a confidential matter which contains personal data and also covers personnel issues. I’m aware that the chair has written to me asking for publication of the executive summary and I will reply to that as soon as I am able, but you will understand that when one is considering something that contains personal information about individuals, which is a confidential matter about individual’s conduct, the publication is not straightforward, far from it.”
Following the comments, Rutnam was accused of “hiding behind confidentiality” by Conservative MP Douglas Ross.
Rutnam said: “I do understand the circumstances and I also understand the public interest in the way the civil service conducts itself in the support of ministers." But he but added: “We also have to take very carefully into account the fact that individuals have rights to confidentiality and privacy of information.”
Committee chair Yvette Cooper followed up to ask if the advice given to Rudd “contributed to the giving of inaccurate information to this committee and the resignation of the home secretary”.
Rutnam acknowledged it formed “part of a sequence of events which then ultimately, as part of a longer sequence of events, culminated in her resignation”.
Asked for his lessons from the report, he added: “My judgement is that we should have done better on that occasion, we could have done better and we should do better. What I don’t want to be drawn into is the specifics of what happened before, during and after that hearing.”
Cooper asked Sajid Javid if he would publish the executive summary, which Javid said he was considering, although Rutnam was “absolutely right” about the confidentiality concerns.
“That said I am looking at what more can be done to publish more, as I do understand what Mr Ross has said. You do have the executive summary of the report as members, but I’m looking to see what else can be done. I want to see what lessons can be learned and one of the take aways from the report is that I do believe the former home secretary could have been provided with better advice ahead of her committee appearance at the time and following that.”
Javid added that Rudd had seen the report, and on Twitter she called for it to be published.
Quite right, it should be published @CommonsHomeAffs https://t.co/oBaljDuOgp
— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) July 10, 2018
Rutnam also repeated Home Office denials that a series of senior management changes, announced after he had received the Allan report, were related to its findings.
Both director general of immigration enforcement Hugh Ind and second permanent secretary Patsy Wilkinson left the department in May for other jobs in government.
At the time of the moves, a spokesman for the department told Civil Service World that the staffing moves were not a result of the report, and Rutnam reiterated it was wrong to link the two.
“I understand that there were stories [that the moves were related], they were not correct. Individuals moved as a result of decisions they had made, not in response to the Alex Allan review.”