Rishi Sunak rejects claims that Dominic Raab bullied UK civil servants


Rishi Sunak on Monday rejected claims that Dominic Raab, his deputy prime minister, behaved inappropriately towards civil servants during his previous stints as a cabinet minister.

Raab, who also serves as justice secretary, has faced a series of allegations about his personal conduct, including that he acted in a “rude” and “aggressive” way towards civil servants during his previous term at the Ministry of Justice between September 2021 and September 2022.

Speaking to reporters en route to the G20 summit in Indonesia, the prime minister said: “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.”

Sunak added that he was “not aware” of any formal complaint about Raab’s behaviour.

But according to an ITV news report on Sunday, eight people who worked in Raab’s private office during his tenure as foreign secretary from 2019 to 2021 said in an anonymous survey that they had been bullied or harassed.

The survey found that, in 2019, 40 per cent of Raab’s private office staff reported experiences of bullying and harassment. It also said Antonia Romeo, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, had spoken to Raab about his behaviour.

Asked about the ITV report, Sunak said: “My understanding is that these surveys are annual and relate to the overall work environment, not to individuals.”

Several other reports have raised questions about Raab’s conduct. The Guardian newspaper has reported that Raab created “a culture of fear” in his time as justice secretary.

The Daily Mirror newspaper has reported he was nicknamed “The Incinerator” as he “burns through” staff. Meanwhile, The Sun newspaper has separately alleged that Raab threw food across a room in anger.

A spokesperson for Raab, who has rejected allegations of bullying, said: “Dominic has high standards, works hard, and expects a lot from his team as well as himself.

“He has worked well with officials to drive the government’s agenda across Whitehall in multiple government departments and always acts with the utmost professionalism.”

The claims relating to Raab have raised further questions for Sunak after he pledged to lead a government based on “integrity, professionalism and accountability” — a push to break with the scandals of his predecessor Boris Johnson.

But his efforts have been hit by the forced resignation of Sir Gavin Williamson, former minister without portfolio, who was accused of bullying a colleague, and criticism of Suella Braverman, home secretary, who admitted that she had sent official documents to a personal email address.

Several opposition parties, who have criticised Sunak’s handling of allegations made against Braverman, urged the prime minister to launch an investigation into Raab’s conduct.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the government was “plagued with a litany of serious allegations” and that Sunak “must come clean on what he knew about the allegations against his motley crew of ministers, and take action to ensure there is an independent watchdog who the public can trust”.

Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, called for Raab to be investigated “with immediate effect”, saying: “These latest reports cannot be brushed under the carpet by Rishi Sunak.”

But Eddie Hughes, a former housing minister who has worked with Raab, said he understood Raab was “very hard working” and expected high standards from his colleagues. But Hughes added that he “never saw him be rude to anyone”.