Rishi Sunak has now been handed a report into bullying allegations against his deputy Dominic Raab – and will now decide whether any action should be taken.
Downing Street said the prime minister is considering the findings of the report, drawn up by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC.
Mr Raab has faced questions about his conduct at work, with FDA union leader Dave Penman saying that civil servants had quit or changed roles because of his behaviour. Mr Raab has denied any wrongdoing.
Here is a timeline of how the case mounted against him.
2010 - 2018
Former civil servant and lawyer Mr Raab enters parliament as Conservative MP for Esher and Walton in 2010. He is a prominent Leave supporter in the lead-up to the 2016 referendum, and gets his break in 2018 when he becomes Brexit secretary.
According to reports in October 2022, “concerns were raised” about Mr Raab’s behaviour as secretary of state in 2018. A document outlining a “serious expression of concern” was dispatched to the Cabinet Office citing unprofessional, even bullying conduct of the minister towards his private office. No action was taken.
A source close to Mr Raab says these allegations are “baseless and malicious claims, timed to jump on a political bandwagon”.
2019 - September 2021
An ally of Boris Johnson, Mr Raab becomes foreign minister in 2019 having himself unsuccessfully stood for the top job after Theresa May’s departure. He also acts as de facto deputy prime minister and fills in for Mr Johnson when the PM is not well enough to attend Covid briefings after being struck down by the virus.
Mr Raab’s tenure coincides with a 24 per cent staff departure rate in the 2019/20 financial year, and 28 per cent in 2020/21, compared to 12 per cent in 2021/22 – although sources have said this was coincidental.
September 2021 - September 2022
Mr Raab is made justice secretary in September 2021, a role he initially holds for a year. News stories published on 21 November 2022 claim that he behaved so badly in a meeting with Home Office chiefs that he had to apologise afterwards for his behaviour. He leaves the role as Liz Truss takes office.
Mr Raab is reappointed justice minister only one month later under new prime minister Rishi Sunak, who, crucially, has denied having had knowledge at this point of any of the allegations that would later emerge. Mr Raab also takes the deputy prime minister role, and fills in for his boss on occasion at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Around 15 senior civil servants at the department are reportedly offered “respite or a route out”, with some still said to be traumatised by Mr Raab’s previous behaviour.
Two official complaints are made against Mr Raab relating to his time as justice secretary. Mr Raab vows to “thoroughly rebut and refute” the accusations.
Simon McDonald, former head of the diplomatic service, said he warned Mr Raab and told him to change his behaviour. “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,” he said.
On 16 November, the prime minister says he intends to appoint an independent investigator to examine claims of alleged bullying. The request is made by Mr Raab himself after two formal complaints are submitted. The deputy prime minister says he will “respect whatever outcome” Mr Sunak decides, although he continues to deny the allegations.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on the same day, Labour MP Clive Betts challenges Mr Raab over the “integrity” promise made by the government. Mr Raab insists he has done nothing wrong, adding: “I am confident I have behaved professionally throughout. I immediately asked the prime minister to set up an independent investigation and I will comply with it fully.”
On 23 November, Mr Sunak appoints experienced barrister Adam Tolley KC to investigate. The following day, “fresh complaints” are said to have come forward across a number of departments. It is reported on Newsnight that formal complaints will be submitted. On 25 November, the inquiry is expanded to include a third complaint.
The inquiry is expanded further, with five new complainants submitting official requests, bringing the total to eight. Leaked reports of a civil service survey suggest that nearly a third (30 per cent) of all workers under Mr Raab have reported being bullied at some point. Mr Raab claims that nobody raised concerns during his years in the roles.
“He genuinely thinks he’s just being a tough taskmaster,” a source tells the media. “He just doesn’t get that this behaviour is not acceptable in the modern workplace.”
Calls for Mr Raab to be suspended intensify, with three senior civil servants interviewed as part of the process. Mr Sunak has, has so far, withstood pressure to sack him.
Mr Sunak refuses to say on Wednesday 1 February whether he knew of complaints about Mr Raab’s behaviour before appointing him.
“The prime minister was not aware of any formal complaints at the time of appointing Dominic Raab,” the prime minister’s press secretary says. “Following formal complaints being made, the prime minister asked for the facts to be established.”
As many as 24 civil servants have now made complaints. Mr Raab still denies any wrongdoing, and Mr Tolley’s investigation is continuing.
In late March, ITV News reports further allegations – this time the claims of former Foreign Office official who had worked under Mr Raab.
The official says Mr Raab is “100 per cent a bully”, and also took no steps to intervene in bullying by others.
“I think you can have high expectations and not be a bully. I think he had high expectations and was a bully,” the anonymous ex-official said.
The broadcaster also spoke to other officials including one who described Mr Raab as “the most difficult minister I’ve ever had to work with”.
After almost 150 days, Adam Tolley KC’s report into the allegations against Mr Raab was handed to Rishi Sunak on Thursday 20 April. The prime minister is now set to decide the fate of his deputy.
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