Sir Mark Sedwill told MPs and peers on the National Security Strategy Committee, it was “never pleasant” to read off-the-record reports against civil servants but acknowledged it had become a “regrettable feature”. The UK’s top civil servant is to step down from both senior roles in September, amid reports of a rift with Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
Before announcing he would step down, the 55-year-old was thrust from the background into the spotlight over the Government’s handling of the coronavirus
He told the committee: “It is never pleasant to find oneself, particularly as an official, in the midst of stories of that kind.
“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 don’t think it is ever pleasant in Government, whether it is against ministers, between them and particularly against officials, when you have briefings to which you cannot really reply, particularly those that are off the record and sniping away.
“But it is a regrettable feature of modern politics, I’m afraid.”
However, the former Home Office permanent secretary played down reports of feud with Number 10.
He added: “I don’t think personalities were an issue at all.”
On working closely with the Prime Minister he said the pair had a “really good relationship”.
Sir Mark also reiterated he did not resign from the role but it was a mutual decision to split the roles of Cabinet Secretary and national security adviser.
He said: “I haven’t resigned. The Prime Minister and I agreed I should step down – it was by agreement.
“That was essentially because we had concluded it was time to split the jobs again and have a separate security adviser and separate Cabinet Secretary.”
Sir Mark added the timing of his departure was “entirely amicable” and stated he had no intention of staying in the role as Cabinet Secretary for the long haul.
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He said: “His job is not to be the expert but to draw on the expertise and represent the Prime Minister and the Government.”
He added it was “quite common” in other countries for the security adviser to be a “political appointee who is closely aligned with the head of Government”.
His comments came on the same day the civil service published an advert for the role of Cabinet Secretary – with a whopping salary of £200,000.
It was also revealed Sir Mark will be paid £248,000 after the Prime Minister agreed to compensate him for “stepping down early”.