Downing Street was braced for the number of allegations in the bullying investigation into Dominic Raab to have swelled significantly after it was reported that at least 24 civil servants are involved in formal complaints.
No 10 insisted on Thursday that the number of formal allegations against the Deputy Prime Minister remained at eight but could not rule out that each complaint includes multiple accusers.
The Guardian reported that the number of complainants is thought to be at least two dozen and could exceed 30, increasing the pressure on Rishi Sunak as his Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi is also under investigation over his tax affairs.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the apparent scale of “shocking claims of widespread bullying and intimidation” involving Mr Raab raise “yet more questions” over the Prime Minister’s judgment.
“He promised a Government of integrity and claimed zero tolerance for bullying, yet he not only appointed Dominic Raab as his Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary but continues to prop him up,” she said.
“The Cabinet he appointed is awash with sleaze and scandal but the Prime Minister is too weak to do anything about it. There must be no whitewash and the Prime Minister himself must come clean on what he knew when he reappointed Dominic Raab.”
Mr Raab has denied all allegations of bullying while under investigation by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC.
Asked whether it is possible there are multiple accusers in each complaint against Mr Raab, a No 10 spokesman said: “It’s a level of detail I wouldn’t be privy to given it’s an independent investigation.”
He could not say when the investigation will be concluded, but added: “We’ve asked for the work to be completed as quickly as possible but we haven’t placed a timeframe on it, it’s up to Mr Tolley as the person undertaking the work to reach his own findings and present them to the Prime Minister once he’s done that.”
It was understood Downing Street had not been told the number of accusers who have spoken to investigators, but was prepared for the possibility that there are more than the eight complaints they have been told about.
Speaking during a Cabinet awayday at Chequers, Mr Sunak said he would await the outcome of Mr Tolley’s investigation before taking any decisions.
“I appointed an independent investigator to have a look at that matter, I’ll wait for that independent investigator to complete that investigation and report back to me,” he said.
Last week, Mr Raab insisted he is “always mindful of the way I behave”.
“I’m confident I behaved professionally throughout, and of course the Government takes a zero-tolerance approach to bullying,” he told the BBC.
The investigation centres on when Mr Raab was foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The investigation by Adam Tolley KC is ongoing so it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst that process takes place.”
Like with Mr Zahawi, the Prime Minister has refused calls to suspend Mr Raab while under investigation.
An Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “There is zero tolerance for bullying across the civil service. The Deputy Prime Minister leads a professional department, driving forward major reforms, where civil servants are valued and the level of ambition is high.
“There is an independent investigation under way and it would be inappropriate to comment further on issues relating to it until it is completed.”
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