Dominic Raab ‘facing series of bullying complaints’ from ex-private secretaries

Justice secretary is already being investigated over two formal complaints
Dominic Raab. Photo: Thomas Krych / Alamy

By Tevye Markson

24 Nov 2022

More civil servants who worked with Dominic Raab are preparing to submit bullying complaints about the deputy prime minister, according to reports.

Several of Raab’s former private secretaries are set to bring forward formal complaints against the justice secretary, the BBC has reported. These would add to the two formal complaints he is already facing an investigation over.

Yesterday, prime minister Rishi Sunak has tasked an employment barrister with looking into the complaints.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, told Newsnight the union has “never come across a situation where so many civil servants appear to be raising complaints about a minister's conduct”.

"This is an extraordinary set of circumstances,” he said.

“So if they are serious allegations about his conduct, that the prime minister has seen, he has to make a decision: is it safe, essentially, for civil servants to continue to work with him? That's what any employer would do."

Last week, CSW reported several sources had claimed Raab “created a culture of fear” at the Ministry of Justice, accusing  him of “belittling” civil servants.

Raab has denied allegations that he has bullied civil servants. “I have never tolerated bullying and always sought to reinforce and empower the teams of civil servants working in my respective departments,” Raab said, when he asked Sunak to investigate formal allegations.

Private secretaries work in a minister’s private office. The MoJ is currently advertising for a principal private secretary, and CSW understands Raab has asked for a director to fill the role, which is usually a deputy director-level post.

The justice secretary could face further pressure over his use of his emails, after Newsnight reported he used his personal email account for government business at two different departments, including as recently as 2021.

A friend of Raab told the BBC the deputy PM believes the way he used his personal email, occasionally using it to approve tweets and quotes related to government business, does not breach the ministerial code.

Suella Braverman resigned as home secretary last month – before being quickly reappointed by Sunak – after breaching the ministerial by using her private email to share government documents.

According to Cabinet Office guidance, ministers should consider, when sending or receiving an email using a personal account, whether it contains "substantive discussions or decisions generated in the course of conducting government business". If it does, they should take steps to ensure the relevant information is accessible – for example, by copying it to a government email address.

The UK’s data watchdog called for a review into the use of non-corporate communication channels in government earlier this year, after finding transparency and security concerns over the widespread use of  instant-messaging apps and private email accounts during the pandemic.

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