A meeting of Ministry of Justice officials at which Dominic Raab’s conduct was discussed was told “people had died” in the Afghanistan evacuation because of his refusal to review documents in formats which he did not like, the Guardian has been told.
Raab, who was formerly foreign secretary but was recently reappointed as justice secretary and deputy prime minister, is the subject of an investigation into bullying allegations, first revealed by the Guardian. They have led to Rishi Sunak’s judgment being called into question for bringing him back into the cabinet.
In fresh allegations, an MoJ official told the Guardian that a 6 May meeting of deputy directors who work in policy, which was ostensibly to discuss the performance of Raab’s private office, “degenerated into a 45-minute discussion of their [the deputy directors’] experiences of bullying by Raab”.
They said that while the deputy directors praised the performance of the private office, all had witnessed – and in one case been subjected to – alleged bullying by Raab.
The official added: “There was a long discussion to clarify that his behaviour stepped over the mark from forthright to unprofessional. One deputy director relayed the extraordinary information that, when Raab was at [the] FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), people had died when advice pertaining to the evacuation of Afghanistan had been delayed because he didn’t like the formatting.”
Raab has previously faced criticism over his role in the chaotic Afghanistan evacuation after the fall of Kabul in August last year, when he was on holiday in Crete.
In evidence to the foreign affairs select committee, whistleblower and ex-FCDO official Raphael Marshall said Raab took “hours to engage” when he was asked to personally approve exceptional cases and returned files asking for them to be submitted in a different spreadsheet format. Marshall said he believed the delay meant some people never made it to Kabul’s airport.
Other officials have confirmed to the Guardian and Observer that Raab is very particular about the formatting of documents.
He was demoted from foreign secretary to justice secretary shortly after the Afghanistan evacuation but made deputy prime minister at the same time.
The MoJ official who attended the 6 May meeting also alleged that Raab turned up an hour late to meetings with very senior civil servants because he was in the gym. He claimed the lord chancellor “snapped at and belittled” officials in meetings for no discernible reason, including shouting at one of their colleagues in the first minutes of her first day covering in his private office because she was unable to immediately answer a specific question.
After being sacked as justice secretary and deputy prime minister by Liz Truss when she became prime minister, Sunak reappointed him to both roles on entering No 10. Last month, the Guardian revealed that senior civil servants at the MoJ were offered “respite or a route out” of the department on his reappointment amid concerns some were still traumatised by his behaviour during his previous tenure.
Labour responded to the latest allegations by repeating its call for an independent review into FCDO culture.
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “This is yet more evidence that suggests Dominic Raab created a toxic culture at the FCDO that could have put lives on the line during the disastrous evacuation from Afghanistan.
“Rishi Sunak’s weakness led him to rewarding this alleged appalling behaviour by appointing him as the deputy prime minister. The idea that Sunak cares about standards in public life is farcical.”
The Guardian understands that Raab denies all the allegations, and insists no slowdown in evacuations was caused by concerns over the quality of documents submitted to him. He believes he helped in successfully extracting 17,000 people from Afghanistan in the months leading up to the Taliban’s takeover.
Raab is also understood to deny claims he has ever missed a meeting through going to the gym, as he is said to instead use his lunchbreak to work out, and disputes ever having raised his voice, snapped at or belittled officials.
He has told MPs that he has behaved professionally throughout his career. After Marshall’s testimony, Raab rejected all of his claims, and said of the formatting comments that he made “no apology for saying I needed the clear facts for each case presented precisely”.