Dominic Raab has said no one raised concerns about his behaviour in “any shape or form” until a formal complaint was submitted last month, despite allegations of bullying spanning years of his career.
The justice secretary said yesterday that he was “confident” he had “behaved professionally” during the seven years in his current and previous ministerial roles.
His comments come as an investigation gets under way into complaints against the justice minister and deputy PM. The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, appointed employment barrister Adam Tolley KC to investigate two formal complaints about his conduct – one at the MoJ and the other in his previous role as foreign secretary.
A number of allegations about Raab’s behaviour towards civil servants had emerged before the justice secretary made the two formal complaints public on 16 November in a letter to Sunak requesting an investigation.
The day before, CSW published claims by multiple officials who had worked for Raab at the MoJ who said he had created a “culture of fear” in the department. One said he was “known as a bully” and made a habit of “intimidating and belittling” civil servants.
Other claims include: that a number of private-office officials who described being traumatised by his behaviour were offered “a route out” of the MoJ when he returned; that he had been nicknamed “the incinerator” because he “burns through” staff so quickly; and that he had thrown tomatoes across the room after losing his temper during a meeting.
Raab has denied the claims.
And he told ITV yesterday that until the formal complaints were made, “no one has ever raised a complaint or grievance with me, in any shape or form, and I have been a minister since 2015 in eight roles in four departments.
“The first that any complaint was made – that I was told – was on 16 November of this year.”
His comments appeared to contradict a claim by Sir Simon McDonald, former permanent secretary at the FCO, that he had raised concerns about Raab’s behaviour with the then-foreign secretary.
“It was language, it was tone. He would be very curt with people. And he did this in front of a lot of other people. I think people felt demeaned,” he told Times Radio. Asked if he had spoken to Raab about this behaviour, he said: “I tried to have that conversation with him."
McDonald also said he found the characterisation of Raab as someone who could bully to be “plausible”.
In his letter to the PM, Raab said he had “never tolerated bullying and always sought to reinforce and empower the teams of civil servants working in my respective departments”.
One of the officials CSW spoke to from the department said a previous claim by Raab – made upon returning to the MoJ after a short absence when Liz Truss was prime minister – that he had a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying, felt like “gaslighting”.
Asked by ITV if he had reflected on the way he spoke to civil servants in light of the reports, Rabb said: “I am confident I behaved professionally throughout and the right thing to do was to call for an independent investigation, I did that. I asked for myself to be put forward to that. And then to deal with these things in a transparent way rather than, frankly, through anonymous briefings via the media.”
The deputy PM said he has had an “excellent relationship right across the departments” with civil servants.
But he added that the public expected ministers to “set high standards and they do want us to drive forward change and that is what I’ve been committed to”.