Dominic Raab: deputy PM and Justice secretary resigns after investigation into bullying allegations
Dominic Raab, who served as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, said he believed the findings of the report by Adam Tolley KC were “flawed”.
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Dominic Raab has resigned from government after a report into bullying allegations against him found two complaints were proven.
Raab, who served as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, said he believed the findings of the report were “flawed” and “set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government”. He said it will “have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of... government”.
He claimed that two of eight bullying complaints made against him were proven, by the report from Adam Tolley KC. The 47-page report, which has now been published, said he was persistently aggressive in work meetings and acted in a intimidating manner, however Mr Tolley found he did not shout or swear.
Opposition parties had accused the Prime Minister of dithering, after he took a second day to consider the long-awaited report into bullying allegations against the Deputy Prime Minister. The Downing Street suggested that Rishi Sunak accepted that Raab broke the Ministerial Code. He said: “You can see the aspects relevant to the code are set out in the report. I think those speak for themselves.
“The Prime Minister thinks it’s right that any findings whatsoever that are deemed to be bullying, it’s right to resign.” Downing Street said that Sunak spoke to Raab on the phone the morning he resigned. He will be replaced by Oliver Dowden as Deputy Prime Minister, and Alex Chalk will take over as Justice Secretary.
Raab had been under investigation over eight formal complaints about his behaviour as Foreign Secretary, Brexit Secretary, and during his first stint as Justice Secretary. He consistently denied bullying staff and says he always “behaved professionally”.
Mike Clancy, general secretary of one of the main civil servants’ unions Prospect, said: “There has been a toxic culture at the top of government for too long with civil servants and public trust paying the price for this chaos. The Prime Minister now needs to clean out the rest of the stables.
“These issues go to the heart of the anger and distrust many people feel towards the way our country runs. It is time for ministers to step up and to start restoring trust both for civil servants and the good of the country. It is never easy to speak out about abuse from someone in power and I would like to pay tribute to those who have had the courage to do so. This should be a wake-up call for ministers, that the way to deliver for the public is to respect and value public servants.”
Raab remained in post as the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister throughout the probe, but FDA chief Dave Penman said that “any other employee…would in all likelihood be suspended” until the investigation is concluded.
What did Dominic Raab say in his resignation letter?
In a resignation letter to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister said: “I am writing to resign from your government, following receipt of the report arising from the inquiry conducted by Adam Tolley KC. I called for the inquiry and undertook to resign, if it made any finding of bullying whatsoever. I believe it is important to keep my word.”
Raab claimed that two of the eight allegations against him were proven. “Whilst I feel duty-bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry, it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me,” he said.
“I also believe that its two adverse findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government.” Raab claimed that the probe’s findings will have damaging consequences for Government.
The MP for Esher and Walton said he was “genuinely sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt, as a result of the pace, standards and challenge that I brought to the Ministry of Justice”. But he added: “That is, however, what the public expect of ministers working on their behalf.”
He said: “First, ministers must be able to exercise direct oversight with respect to senior officials over critical negotiations conducted on behalf of the British people, otherwise the democratic and constitutional principle of ministerial responsibility will be lost.
“Second, ministers must be able to give direct critical feedback on briefings and submissions to senior officials, in order to set the standards and drive the reform the public expect of us.
“Of course, this must be done within reasonable bounds. Mr Tolley concluded that I had not once, in four-and-a-half years, sworn or shouted at anyone, let alone thrown anything or otherwise physically intimidated anyone, nor intentionally sought to belittle anyone.”
Raab added that “setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent”. He claimed: “It will encourage spurious complaints against ministers, and have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your Government — and ultimately the British people.”
The Tory MP also complained to Sunak about what he said was a “number of improprieties that came to light during the course of this inquiry”.
Eight formal complaints involving at least 24 civil servants
The three permanent secretaries who led officials working under Raab are thought to have given evidence to an inquiry into the Justice Secretary being led by Tolley, with eight complaints involving at least 24 civil servants.
There are also reports that No 10 was warned about concerns over Raab’s behaviour before Rishi Sunak made the decision to appoint him deputy prime minister last year.
Civil servants highlighted that there had been “issues” with Raab in his previous departments before Sunak decided to bring him back into government, while Downing Street has insisted that Sunak was not “directly told,” according to The Times. Tolley was appointed by the Prime Minister in November after a number of allegations came to light, prompting Raab to refer himself for an investigation.
One of the senior officials interviewed as part of the investigation is Simon McDonald, former permanent secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), who told LBC last year that Raab could plausibly be characterised as a bully.
Speaking to Andrew Marr, 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 Marr. “Maybe they are. I worked closely with him and I didn’t see everything that happened.”
When asked whether “the characterisation of Dominic Raab as somebody who could bully and around whom bullying happened is a plausible one,” McDonald answered “yes”.
McDonald reportedly spoke to Raab about his behaviour towards staff in his private office and during meetings during his time at the FCO. He is also understood to have informally reported his concerns to the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team.
After being reappointed to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) by Sunak last year, the department’s permanent secretary, Antonia Romeo, reportedly warned that he must treat staff professionally and with respect amid unhappiness about his return.
Raab has denied any wrongdoing and said he will “thoroughly rebut and refute” the allegations against him, insisting that he “acted professionally” during his tenure as secretary of state across the three departments.
Ex-justice secretary Robert Buckland has described Raab as “at the top end of the robustness scale,” and confirmed reports that the pair had “a disagreement” over plans for a British Bill of Rights, which Buckland criticised in an article for the Daily Telegraph.
The Times reported that Raab tried to get Buckland sacked from the role he held as Welsh secretary at the time of the row in the summer of 2022. Buckland reportedly told Rishi Sunak about the “intimidating” and “unacceptable” behaviour – something denied by the now-Prime Minister’s allies.
‘Westminster complaints system is outdated’
The former Tory party chair Jake Berry said Raab should have been suspended while the investigation was being carried, and called the system for handling complaints in Westminster “outdated”. Appearing on ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday night, Berry, said: “It does seem to me quite wrong that when people are under these kinds of investigations of this type that they continue in their job.”
He added: “I actually think there’s a fundamental rethink required about how we deal with these sorts of allegations, both in Government made against ministers and made against Members of Parliament. “It’s a massively outdated system that isn’t what our constituents would expect of any of us.”
Asked whether he will then resign if the complaint is upheld, at first, Raab said he was not going to start speculating on what the outcome might be. Pressed further, he said: “Allow me to respond in the right way at the right time, of course. Look, if an allegation of bullying is upheld, I will resign.”
Raab previously said he thought there should be more “plain speaking in politics”. He said: “What we need, and I think this can be reconciled absolutely with having a zero tolerance on bullying, you need ministers who come in and correctly but directly challenge assumptions, test ideas — that is the way we get the best out of Government.”
Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, dismissed Raab’s comments, insisting civil servants do not “have the confidence” to challenge bullying or harassment by senior figures in Whitehall.
He told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “The picture he paints is that everything is fine in the civil service and the relationship between ministers and civil servants is OK. That’s not the picture civil servants speak of, that’s not their experience.
“One in six are saying they have experienced bullying or harassment, or have witnessed that, in the last 12 months alone across 20 Government departments. They don’t have the confidence of challenging those behaviours.”
‘We mustn’t be too snowflakey about it’
Former Brexit opportunities minister and Commons leader Rees-Mogg warned Sky News that “we’ve got to be slightly careful about the bullying allegations,” adding, “we mustn’t be too snowflakey about it”.
He said: “It’s a very difficult line to judge. It’s not a straightforward issue in most cases. It’s how did somebody react, what did somebody say, is it reasonable to demand from senior and well-paid professionals a level of good service? And then you have to judge whether that line has been overstepped.”
Penman described the comments as “outrageous”. He said: “A former leader of the House trivialising bullying that we know has ruined lives and careers. Not only should he be ashamed of himself but his leader and party should distance themselves from this.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “These shocking claims of widespread bullying and intimidation raise yet more questions about the Prime Minister’s judgement.
"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.
"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.”