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Raab in spotlight over bullying claims as he stands in for Sunak at PMQs

Dominic Raab (James Manning/PA)
Dominic Raab (James Manning/PA)

Dominic Raab is facing fresh questions over his conduct towards junior colleagues as he prepares to stand in for Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister is already facing a series of allegations he bullied officials and deployed rude and demeaning behaviour.

Top Ministry of Justice officials have now reportedly ruled there must be a senior civil servant in the room at all meetings involving Mr Raab due to the recent allegations about his conduct, according to The Guardian.

Meanwhile, the newspaper also reported that Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary to the Department for Exiting the European Union, raised concerns about Mr Raab’s behaviour during his time as Brexit secretary with the then-cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a working session on food and energy security during the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a working session on food and energy security during the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia (Leon Neal/PA)

Mr Sunak, who is in Indonesia at the G20 summit, has so far stood by his deputy, who will be further thrust into the spotlight when he deputises for him at PMQs on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister told reporters travelling with him to Bali: “I don’t recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him.

“Of course there are established procedures for civil servants if they want to bring to light any issues.

“I’m not aware of any formal complaint about Dominic.”

Mr Raab was also reportedly warned about his behaviour towards officials while he was foreign secretary.

The concerns were raised with Mr Raab by Lord McDonald, who was the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, and the mandarin also informally discussed the situation with the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team, The Guardian reported.

In a radio interview on Monday, Lord McDonald had acknowledged that allegations Mr Raab could be a bully were plausible.

Asked by LBC radio if characterisation of Mr Raab as someone who could bully and around whom bullying could happen, he replied: “Yes.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab in Downing Street
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab in Downing Street (Aaron Chown/PA)

Lord McDonald added: “Dominic Raab is one of the most driven people I ever worked for, he was a tough boss.

“Maybe they are euphemisms, but I worked closely with him and I didn’t see everything that happened.”

According to The Guardian’s sources, Lord McDonald spoke to Mr Raab on several occasions about how he treated staff in his private office and during meetings – although none made an official complaint.

Lord McDonald, now a crossbench peer, was said to have had several informal conversations with the head of the propriety and ethics team (PET) at the Cabinet Office between 2019 and 2020 about the issue.

A spokesman for Mr Raab told The Guardian: “Dominic had frequent discussions with his permanent secretary at the Foreign Office about how best to run the department and ensure that it delivered to the highest standard in challenging circumstances such as during Covid.”

The head of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, called on Mr Sunak to appoint a new independent adviser on ministers’ interests – the post has been vacant since Lord Geidt quit in June – and reform the complaints system to help address a “toxic work culture” in Whitehall.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “As we have seen over the last few weeks, there is increasing scrutiny over the conduct of ministers and, in particular, accusations of bullying – behaviour that has no place in a modern workplace.”

Angela Rayner
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner (Peter Byrne/PA)

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner demanded an independent investigation into Mr Raab.

“Rishi Sunak clearly knew about Dominic Raab’s reputation when he reappointed him to his Cabinet,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to ask for a list to be published of ministers with “credible allegations of bullying” made against them.

The Prime Minister was already under pressure for appointing Sir Gavin Williamson to his senior team despite being told he was under investigation for allegedly bullying a colleague, claims that caused Sir Gavin to quit.

He also faced criticism for reinstating Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after she was forced to step down over a security breach.