Dominic Raab behaved so badly in a meeting with the Home Office during his first stint as Justice Secretary that his department’s senior official had to personally apologize to his counterparts by afterwards, the Guardian said.
Whitehall sources said the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the subject of two official complaints of alleged bullying, acted ‘so badly and inappropriately’ at a high-level meeting earlier this year that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was forced to call senior officials of then Home Secretary Priti Patel to express his regret.
An insider suggested that the Justice Department’s top official, Antonia Romeo, took the highly unusual step of apologizing on behalf of her minister to prevent the incident from escalating into a formal complaint. However, it is unclear if Raab was aware of his actions at the time.
Neither department denied the apology call took place. A Department of Justice spokesperson said: ‘The Department of Justice works hand in hand with the Home Office and calls between officials to monitor interdepartmental meetings are standard procedure.
Rishi Sunak has been questioned about his judgment on reappointing Raab as justice secretary after a series of allegations about his behavior towards officials from three different departments, including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Brexit department.
Allegations of his ‘bullying’ have now sparked calls for an investigation into the ‘toxic culture’ at the Foreign Office as it oversaw the chaotic withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, similar to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs scrutiny. ‘Interior after the Windrush scandal.
The Prime Minister backed his deputy but agreed to open an investigation into two official complaints lodged against him by officials who worked with him at the Foreign Office and the Justice Ministry.
However, the investigation is on hold until No. 10 appoints an outside figure to carry it out. Sunak is also under pressure to fill the position of independent ethics adviser, which has been vacant for five months. Raab has previously said he has “never tolerated bullying” and has “always sought to empower and empower” public officials.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: ‘Dominic Raab leaves a trail of senior civil servants forced to spend their time apologizing for his toxic behavior and reading the riot act to him, instead of focusing on the safety of Britons on our streets.
“This disgraceful incident shows that his misconduct is not only an embarrassment to the ministry he claims to lead, but is hampering the smooth functioning of government.
“Rishi Sunak promised to bring integrity to the steps of No 10, but now the deputy he reappointed is already facing an independent investigation into his conduct with a host of revelations about his unacceptable behavior throwing a shadow over his government.”
The Guardian reported that his refusal to speak to some Foreign Office staff he considered ‘time wasters’ led to ‘blockages’ during the evacuation from Afghanistan, staff from two departments he headed being forced to take sick leave due to his alleged behavior.
Sources said the Deputy Prime Minister’s conduct compounded the chaotic exit of British forces during the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021, which officials said was “expensive” and caused “long-term” damage.
Allegations of Raab’s ‘bullying’ behavior have led Labor to call for a culture inquiry into the Foreign Office along the lines of Wendy Williams’ sweeping scrutiny of the Home Office after the Windrush scandal.
David Lammy, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for foreign affairs, said there appeared to have been a “deeper pattern of toxicity, dysfunction, intimidation and falling morale” which could have “damaged the ‘Britain’s influence on the world stage’.
He also cited an internal civil service survey that found the Foreign Office ranked among the bottom three departments for leadership: state offices.
“Great British diplomats deserve to have ministers who maintain the highest standards and treat them with dignity and respect.
“In addition to the individual investigations into Raab that are already underway, the FCDO needs an independent review of its culture to learn from the Conservatives’ failure, so that a department that could once boast of being a model for diplomatic services around the world to start over.
New figures, obtained by the Guardian, also reveal that no civil servant working in the Foreign Secretary’s private office left the department in 2017-19, when Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were in charge.
Raab led the department from July 2019 to September 2021, and his tenure coincides with an increase in departures: 24% in the 2019/20 financial year, 28% in 2020/21 and 12% in 2021/22. Allies suggested the departures were coincidental.