Rishi Sunak’s press secretary has failed to deny that Rishi Sunak was aware of informal complaints about his deputy prime minister’s behaviour when he placed him in the cabinet.
Asked multiple times, she repeatedly said: “He was not aware of formal complaints when he made the appointment”.
She also made clear Dominic Raab will not be suspended while an investigation into allegations he bullied staff is underway. Reports suggest the PM was told about Dominic Raab’s “unacceptable behaviour” over the summer. Mr Sunak was made aware of his conduct but never “directly told” about specific issues, Sky News reported.
Earlier Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Sunak of being “too weak” to act over the claims.
Sir Keir asked the prime minister how he would feel if his friend or relative was currently working for the Justice Secretary.
He also tackled Mr Sunak over what he knew and when about the allegations.
Referring to sacked Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, Sir Keir told the Commons: "So in relation to his former chair, his defence is: nobody told me, I didn't know, I didn't ask any questions. Is the Prime Minister now also going to claim that he's the only person completely unaware of serious allegations of bullying against the Deputy Prime Minister before he appointed him?"
Dave Penman, leader of the FDA union, which represents senior officials, said Mr Raab should be suspended while the investigation is conducted given “the seriousness and extent of those accusations”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Dominic Raab is now facing investigations around eight separate complaints involving what we understand is dozens of civil servants in three separate government departments over a period of four years.”
During PMQs, Mr Sunak insisted he had appointed lawyer Adam Tolley KC to investigate when he learned of “formal complaints”.
But reports have suggested that Mr Sunak was warned about Mr Raab‘s conduct before appointing him as his deputy and Justice Secretary.
No 10 did not deny the Prime Minister had been made aware of “informal complaints”, pointedly sticking to Mr Sunak’s own wording.
His press secretary said: “The PM was not aware of any formal complaints at the time of appointing Dominic Raab.”
Pressed further, she said: “I don’t know what your definition of informal complaints is. The PET (propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office) processes are very clear.
“The appointments and usual processes were followed and we were not aware of any formal complaints.”
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