U.K.’s Most Powerful Civil Servant Diagnosed With Cancer

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The most powerful official in the U.K. has been receiving treatment for cancer but remains “totally focused” on his job giving critical advice to the prime minister and steering the government through Brexit.

Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet secretary, is the politically neutral official who is in charge of the 400,000 civil servants who staff every government department. He is a key source of advice for Prime Minister Theresa May, and her ministers, and acts as a key link between the elected government and Queen Elizabeth II.

Jeremy Heywood

Photographer: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Heywood was hugely influential in David Cameron’s administration and remains central to May’s, having won the trust of the prime minister and her top aides.

An emailed statement from the government said Heywood, who was knighted in 2012, was diagnosed with cancer in June. “He underwent treatment over the summer and early autumn which went well,” the statement said.

"He continues to work as normal,” said May’s spokeswoman Alison Donnelly told reporters in London. “His doctors agree with that. He’s getting on with the job. He has her full support.”

“Throughout this period, with the full support of his doctors, Sir Jeremy has continued with his normal duties for the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and as Head of the Civil Service,” the statement said. “He remains totally focused on those duties and we will be making no further comment on this private matter.”

— With assistance by Robert Hutton

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