Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Civil servant denies talking to PM about his behaviour

Sir Gus O'Donnell: ''I haven't called for investigations, I haven't given verbal warnings''

Britain's top civil servant has said he has spoken to Gordon Brown about how to motivate staff but denied ever having discussions about bullying claims.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell told MPs he had not discussed the PM's "behaviour" with him in the past amid a row over treatment of No 10 staff.

But he said he would have talked to the prime minister about how "to get the best" out of civil servants.

Mr Brown has said claims he intimidated staff were "completely wrong".

Allies of the prime minister have defended his style of government after claims made by journalist Andrew Rawnsley in a new book, serialised in the Observer newspaper on Sunday.

He detailed incidents in which Mr Brown allegedly grabbed staff by the lapels, shoved them aside and shouted at them.


Mr Rawnsley claimed Sir Gus had been so concerned about the situation in Downing Street that he had had a private word with the prime minister about his behaviour - a claim categorically denied by No 10.

Mr Rawnsley says he stands by his story, saying his sources for the assertion were "24 carat".

Appearing before the Justice Select Committee, Sir Gus said he couldn't be "clearer" that he "had not talked to the prime minister about his behaviour with respect to bullying No 10 staff".

"I didn't talk to him about behaviour," he told MPs."I talk to him about how to get the best out of his staff."

I make a point, when I discuss with him, saying that it is really important you show your support for the civil service and he has done
Sir Gus O'Donnell

"When I say to the prime minister do you really get the best out of your staff when you congratulate them for really good pieces of work, he said yes. I make a point, when I discuss with him, saying that it is really important you show your support for the civil service and he has done."

"He has been a very strong supporter of the civil service."

Sir Gus insisted that he had similar conversations about how best to motivate civil servants with former prime minister Tony Blair.

Pressed on the issue by MPs, Sir Gus said he was "not prepared" to discuss allegations about the conduct of former No 10 advisers or any made complaints against them.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said on Tuesday he had been subject to anonymous briefings from No 10 in 2008 after remarks about the economy, suggesting the "forces of hell" had been unleashed on him.

But Mr Darling denied he had been bullied by the prime minister while Mr Brown has insisted he "never instructed" any of these briefings.

The Tories have said the two men are at "war with each other".

Sir Gus has already said he did not feel there was any need for an inquiry into the allegations in Mr Rawnsley's book - a move called for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

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