Dominic Raab has suggested the rules surrounding the inquiry into whether he bullied officials may have been breached by witnesses speaking to the media.
The Deputy Prime Minister said on Friday it is “improper” to discuss his conduct after giving evidence to the inquiry being carried out by lawyer Adam Tolley KC.
Mr Raab has pledged to resign if he is found to have bullied staff, as the investigation is expected to be drawing to a close after the Cabinet minister himself was interviewed.
Multiple colleagues have spoken out about his conduct, though it has largely been unclear whether they have first spoken to the inquiry or not.
One source told Sky News that Mr Raab’s conduct “was the worst behaviour I have ever seen” as he sought to “belittle people, interrogate people, ignore people”.
The individual added: “He created an awful atmosphere. It was coercive behaviour. He had people in tears after coming out of his office – but they wouldn’t want to complain, they saw it as professional pride, just to cope with it.”
Read the claim during an interview with the broadcaster, Mr Raab – who has always denied bullying – said it would be “improper” to comment on the allegation.
“Anyone involved in the inquiry who is commenting to the media anonymously or otherwise is breaching the rules and as a matter of basic professional integrity, I’m not going to do that,” he said.
It is unclear whether that source has spoken to Mr Tolley. The BBC has reported one official who has given evidence to the inquiry going on to speak positively of Mr Raab.
“He was always very focused on his job, but always super-nice, more perceptive than you’d realise,” they said.
The Deputy Prime Minister himself has in the past been warned against discussing the inquiry while it is ongoing.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union representing senior civil servants, has told Mr Raab “to stop giving comments to the public”.
Mr Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, had been arguing in the media that he had “behaved professionally at all times” while “setting high standards”.
Pressed on his relationship with civil servants on Friday, Mr Raab added: “Of course you want to have a positive relationship.
“With the vast majority of people, that I do, that is the case. But I’m not going to comment on the allegations or the claims.”
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