Rishi Sunak on Wednesday agreed to launch an independent investigation into his deputy prime minister Dominic Raab, after two formal complaints were made regarding his conduct as a cabinet minister.
In a letter to the prime minister, Raab said he had been notified that two separate formal complaints relating to his behaviour during previous stints as foreign secretary and justice secretary had been made.
He called on Sunak to commission an independent probe into the claims “as soon as possible” and said he would “co-operate fully and respect whatever outcome you decide”.
Recent reports in The Guardian newspaper have alleged that Raab, who is also justice secretary, created a “culture of fear” and displayed “aggressive behaviour” during a term at the Ministry of Justice between September 2021 and September 2022.
It has also been reported that Raab, while serving as foreign secretary between July 2019 and September 2021, was warned about alleged bullying behaviour by Lord Simon McDonald, then permanent secretary at the Foreign Office. McDonald this week told LBC it was “plausible” that Raab had engaged in bullying behaviour, describing him as a “tough boss”.
Writing in response, Sunak said he recognised Raab was “keen to address the complaints” and that “integrity, professionalism and accountability” remained “core [government] values”.
Downing Street confirmed later on Wednesday that a “suitably qualified, independent person” would investigate the complaints, but acknowledged that Sunak, as the “ultimate arbiter” of the ministerial code, would not be obliged to adhere to the findings of any report.
Number 10 added that Sunak retained confidence in Raab.
Speaking in the House of Commons during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Raab said he was confident that he had behaved “professionally” and that he would “take it as an article of personal faith that we behave with absolute integrity and accountability”.
But Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, called on Raab to apologise, adding: “The deputy prime minister knows his behaviour is unacceptable, so what is he still doing here?”
Rayner also urged the government to appoint an independent adviser on ministerial interests. The role has been vacant since June, when Lord Christopher Geidt quit following a dispute with then premier Boris Johnson.
Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat chief whip, said Sunak would “be allowed to act as judge and jury, even though he has failed to clamp down on rule-breaking by other Conservative cabinet ministers”.
The claims relating to Raab have raised further questions for Sunak after he pledged to lead a government based on “integrity, professionalism and accountability” — a push to break with the scandals of the Johnson administration.
But his efforts have been hit in recent weeks by the forced resignation of Sir Gavin Williamson, former minister without portfolio, who was accused of bullying a Tory colleague and civil servants, and criticism of Suella Braverman, the home secretary, who admitted that she had sent official documents to a personal email address.
Williamson now faces an informal investigation by Downing Street and a formal inquiry by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme into allegations of misconduct.
Speaking at the G20 summit in Indonesia, Sunak stressed that he was not aware of any allegations prior to reappointing Raab, but urged individuals to “come forward” and voice their concerns via a formal complaint process.
“I don’t recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him,” he told the BBC. “Of course there are established procedures for civil servants if they want to bring to light any issues.”