Third of staff allege bullying in Raab’s private office team

Exclusive: Leaked annual survey shows fourfold rise in harassment claims in justice ministers’ office

A third of staff in ministerial private offices at Dominic Raab’s department have claimed to have been bullied or harassed while working in their current Ministry of Justice roles in the past year, according to an internal Whitehall survey.

The results of the civil service survey from this week, which have been leaked to the Guardian, show that 10 of the 33 people who worked most closely with the justice secretary said they had been a victim of bad behaviour.

The figure, which represents 30% of the total number of officials in the private office directorate, is a more than fourfold increase on the 7% that claimed to have been bullied or harassed at work the year before. The private office directorate includes officials working for Raab, his junior ministers and the MoJ’s permanent secretary.

The numbers are significantly higher in the private office than across the rest of the MoJ’s Whitehall headquarters, where 8% of officials claimed to have been bullied or harassed while at work both years. Across the whole civil service the figure was 7%.

The survey, which is completed by all MoJ staff in September and October each year, is anonymous and does not reveal who is being accused of bullying within the team.

Raab faces eight formal complaints over alleged bullying, six of them from his first stint in the role, which he held for 12 months until September 2022, when he was sacked by Liz Truss. He was reappointed a month later by Rishi Sunak.

The deputy prime minister has vowed to “thoroughly rebut and refute” the initial three official complaints he is already facing, one from the MoJ and two from his time as foreign secretary and Brexit secretary.

The five latest formal allegations, confirmed by No 10 on Wednesday, came as a blow to Raab’s attempts to clear his name, and raise yet more questions about Sunak’s judgment in reappointing him to such a senior post.

The fresh complaints are understood to be from senior civil servants with direct experience of alleged bullying and aggressive behaviour by Raab during his first spell in the job.

Senior Tories have questioned why the justice secretary has been allowed to stay in post while the growing number of complaints against him are investigated.

The former party chair Jake Berry told Talk TV that keeping Raab in place was a “hard line for the government to maintain”, adding: “In the real world, people will look at this and say it doesn’t feel right.”

The shadow Home Office minister Stephen Kinnock said Raab should be suspended while the complaints were being investigated by the leading employment barrister, Adam Tolley KC, who was appointed by Sunak.

He told the BBC: ”There is a very strong case for him being suspended, and there’s a very strong case for him to consider his position. This is an outrageous number of complaints against him.”

However, No 10 rejected calls to suspend Raab. The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We think the right approach is to let the independent investigator do their work and not pre-empt that process.”

Last week, Raab claimed civil servants had never raised concerns about his behaviour during seven years in ministerial roles, as he hit out at anonymous briefings to the media and insisted he always behaved professionally.

However, the Guardian has reported that Antonia Romeo, the MoJ permanent secretary, had to speak to Raab when he returned to the department under Sunak, to warn him that he must treat staff professionally and with respect amid unhappiness about his return.

The Guardian also reported that Raab was warned about his behaviour towards officials during his time as foreign secretary by the department’s top civil servant, who then informally reported his concerns to the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team.

One source said: “The problem is that Dom doesn’t even know he’s doing it. There’s a piece missing somewhere. He genuinely thinks he’s just being a tough taskmaster. He just doesn’t get that this behaviour is not acceptable in the modern workplace.”


Pippa Crerar Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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