DOWNING Street was reportedly told of written complaints against deputy prime minister Dominic Raab when Rishi Sunak brought him back into government.
According to The Sunday Times, multiple sources claimed that civil servants working in the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team (Pet) informed No 10 two months ago, as Sunak was appointing his cabinet, of the complaints relating to Raab’s conduct towards staff.
Although these weren’t technically formal complaints, the officials are also said to have made clear that several had been made in writing.
In spite of the warnings, Raab was appointed by Sunak and returned to government as Justice Secretary and deputy PM.
Sunak and No 10 have previously said that the Prime Minister was unaware of any formal complaints and that none existed at the time Raab was appointed.
The PM has previously said he “did not recognise that characterisation” of his deputy following the bullying allegations.
The Sunday Times reports that Downing Street did not deny that Pet had flagged the existence of informal complaints against Raab.
A spokesman said: “As we have said before, the PM had all the necessary information to make the appointment.”
Raab is the subject of three formal complaints relating to his conduct towards staff in various Cabinet roles.
He has said he behaved “professionally at all times” and that he will “thoroughly rebut and refute” all the allegations against him.
Pet’s function is to support the prime minister and cabinet secretary when they need to take decisions about complaints or concerns regarding people’s behaviour.
During a reshuffle, it usually notifies No 10 about prospective ministers and asked to check for any potential concerns.
However, it does not have the power to block appointments should a prime minister decide to appoint someone to the Cabinet anyway.
It was reported that staff in the Ministry of Justice had been offered the option of transferring to other roles and that several accused Raab of “demeaning”, “bullying” and “belittling” behaviour towards them.
On October 14, Sunak said: “I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him”.
The Sunday Times was also told that at some point after that comment was made, No 10 was against contacted by officials in Pet and reminded they had flagged complaints which had been made about Raab.
This was denied by Downing Street. The formal complaints have led to Sunak commissioning an independent investigation at Raab’s request.