Boris Johnson orders quarter of a million pounds 'compensation' to top civil servant after mysterious resignation

Jon Stone
Reuters TV

Boris Johnson has authorised the payment of a quarter of a million pounds in "compensation" to Britain's outgoing top civil servant after he stepped down in mysterious circumstances.

It was announced last month that Sir Mark Sedwill would be stepping down as Cabinet Secretary and National Security Advisor after just two years in the role – a very short stint compared to his predecessors.

In a personal minute published on Wednesday Boris Johnson said the UK civil service human resources department and legal advisors had been consulted about the £248,189 payment, which was "likely to be in the form of a pension contribution".

"You have advised me that this is regular and legal, and value for money to do so," the prime minister added on the minute, which was shared with two parliamentary select committees that deal with financial matters

The authorisation of compensation comes amid rumours that the mandarin was forced out of his role by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's top advisor.

Sir Mark's national security advisor job was also summarily given to David Frost, a close ally of Mr Johnson and unusually, a political appointment with little background on the issue rather than a civil servant. Mr Frost is currently the prime minister's chief EU negotiator.

The outgoing top mandarin Sir Mark told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that one "regrettable feature of modern politics” was that civil servants such as himself were now "fair game" for hostile briefings.

“I’m not the only official that’s happened to – indeed, some others have had it worse – but we appear to be in an era where some of us are fair game in the media and I’m afraid it goes with the territory now. I guess my successor will have to deal with some of that as well," he told the national security strategy select committee.

When one MP on the committee said he has resigned and asked why, Sir Mark said: “I haven’t resigned. The prime minister and I agreed I should step down, it was by agreement. And that was essentially because we had concluded that it was time to split the jobs.”

He added: “As we move into this next phase of dealing with Covid recovery, we concluded we needed a separate national security adviser, a separate cabinet secretary, and those people should see the prime minister through the rest of this problem.”

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