Dominic Raab resigns over bullying inquiry, but says findings 'flawed'

Justice secretary says report "sets dangerous precedent" by “setting the threshold for bullying so low”
Dominic Raab. Photo: ZUMA Press/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

21 Apr 2023

Dominic Raab has resigned as justice secretary after an investigation into claims he had bullied staff upheld two complaints against him.

The deputy prime minister said he was keeping his word to step down if the report, which was sent to the PM yesterday, upheld any allegations of bullying – but criticised employment barrister Adam Tolley KC's findings as "flawed".

He said the inquiry has “set a dangerous precedent” by “setting the threshold for bullying so low”.

"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,” Raab said.

Sunak appointed Tolley in December to investigate two formal complaints against the justice secretary, which alleged that he had bullied staff. The number of official complaints eventually rose to eight.

Officials who spoke to CSW claimed Raab had "created a culture of fear" at the Ministry of Justice and made a habit of “intimidating and belittling” civil servants.

Raab said in February he would resign “if an allegation of bullying is upheld” and he confirmed this as his reason for resigning in his letter to Sunak. According to Raab, two of the complaints have been upheld.

He said: “I called for the inquiry and undertook to resign if it made any findings of bullying whatsoever. I believe it is important to keep my word.”

But in his resignation letter, Raab hit out at the inquiry’s conclusions.

“Whilst I feel duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry, it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me. I also believe that its two adverse findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government,” he said.

Raab said he was “generally 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”.

“This is, however, what the public expects of ministers working on their behalf."

Raab said 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”.

“This is particularly true during my time as foreign secretary in the context of the British negation, the Brexit negotiations over Gibraltar and a senior diplomat breached the mandate agreed by cabinet,” Raab said.

He said ministers must also “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 expects of us”.

“Of course this must be done within reasonable bounds,” Raab added.

Raab also said Tolley had concluded that he 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”.

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