Dominic Raab says he’s ‘behaved professionally throughout’ as he faces investigation over bullying complaints

16 November 2022, 10:12 | Updated: 16 November 2022, 12:34

Dominic Raab has asked for an independent investigation into his own conduct
Dominic Raab has asked for an independent investigation into his own conduct. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Dominic Raab will face a formal investigation into two formal bullying complaints made against him after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accepted his request.

The deputy prime minister appeared at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday in place of PM Rishi Sunak, who is at the G20 summit.

He will continue to serve in his positions as deputy PM, Justice Secretary, and Lord Chancellor.

He tweeted on Wednesday: "I look forward to addressing these complaints, and continuing to serve as Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary, and Lord Chancellor."

Dominic Raab is facing bullying allegations
Dominic Raab is facing bullying allegations. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak accepted Mr Raab's request for an investigation on Wednesday.

In his response to the deputy prime minister, he said: "I thank you for your letter and the recommendation that the two formal complaints against you in previous roles are investigated independently.

"I know that you will be keen to address the complaints made against you and agree that proceeding in this way is the right course of action.

"Integrity, professionalism and accountability are core values of this Government. It is right that these matters are investigated fully."

It comes after days of questions and allegations about his conduct towards junior colleagues. Mr Raab's former Cabinet colleague Sir Gavin Williamson stepped down last week amid bullying allegations.

Mr Raab said in his letter to the PM: "When you entered No 10 Downing Street, on 25th, October, you rightly stated that this government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.' I am proud to take this as a personal article of faith.

"I have just been notified that two separate complaints have formally been made against me, in parallel, from my time as Foreign Secretary and my first tenure as Justice Secretary which ended in September of this year.

PM Rishi Sunak is in Bali at the G20 summit
PM Rishi Sunak is in Bali at the G20 summit. Picture: Getty

"I am therefore writing that you commission an independent investigation into the claims as soon as possible."

Mr Raab said that he would fully cooperate with the investigation and respect the outcome, adding that he welcomed the opportunity to "address any complaints transparently".

Mr Raab said he had been "blessed" to work with "a wide range of outstanding civil servants".

He added: "I have never tolerated bullying, and always sought to reinforce and empower the teams of civil servants working in my respective departments."

The MP for Esher and Walton told the House of Commons on Wednesday: "I am confident that I have behaved professionally throughout but immediately when I heard that two complaints had been made - I believe they were made yesterday; I was notified this morning - I immediately asked the Prime Minister to set up an independent investigation and of course I will comply with it fully."

Watch PMQs today at 12 on Global Player.

Steve Reed says bullying in parliament isn't 'just Raab'

It comes after a former top Foreign Office official told LBC he believes the characterisation of Mr Raab as someone who 'could bully' is a plausible one.

Speaking to Andrew Marr, former FCO permanent secretary Simon McDonald also refused to deny that he had to speak to Mr Raab about his behaviour during in the department during Mr Raab’s time as Foreign Secretary.

His comments come after eight people working in Mr Raab's private office claimed to have been bullied or harassed at work, according to a survey from late 2019. Fifteen people said they had witnessed seeing someone else being bullied or treated unfairly.

Listen to the full interview on Tonight with Andrew Marr from 6pm on Global Player

Mr McDonald said: "Dominic Raab is one of the most driven people I ever worked for. He was a tough boss.""Those sound like euphemisms," said Andrew.

"Maybe they are. I worked closely with him and I didn’t see everything that happened."

"Do you think that the characterisation of Dominic Raab as somebody who could bully and around whom bullying happened is a plausible one?" pressed Andrew.

"Yes," came the response.

Ex-FCDO Chief says it is plausible bullying could have happened around Dominic Raab

Mr Sunak came out in defence of Mr Raab on Tuesday after the Deputy Prime Minister was accused of rude and demeaning behaviour towards civil servants.

The Prime Minister said he did not "recognise that characterisation" of his deputy and denied knowing about any formal complaints against him.

Mr Sunak is facing further questions over his judgment as allegations of bullying emerged from Mr Raab's previous stint as Justice Secretary - with staff reportedly offered a "route out" of his department when he was reinstated in October.

The Prime Minister told reporters travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit: "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."

Gavin Williamson also stepped down amid bullying allegations
Gavin Williamson also stepped down amid bullying allegations. Picture: Getty

A survey of 20 people working in Mr Raab's private office when he was foreign secretary in 2019 showed that 40% reported personal experience of bullying and harassment - though not necessarily by Mr Raab - and 75% witnessed it, ITV reported on Sunday.

Asked about the leaked results, Mr Sunak said: "My understanding is that these surveys are annual and relate to the overall work environment, not to individuals."

The Guardian previously reported that multiple sources alleged the Cabinet minister created a "culture of fear" in the Ministry of Justice.

The Mirror reported the Justice Secretary had acquired the nickname "The Incinerator" because he "burns through" staff.

The Sun, meanwhile, suggested Mr Raab had once hurled tomatoes from a salad across a room in a fit of anger, a claim a spokesman for the Cabinet minister said was "nonsense".