'Unwritten rule' officials should be accompanied when meeting Dominic Raab, ITV News told

Dominic Raab leaving No 10 Downing Street.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab. Credit: PA

Officials in the Ministry of Justice had an "unwritten rule" that officials should be accompanied by more robust colleagues when meeting the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, ITV News has been told.

The disclosure comes after we previously revealed that a senior figure in the Foreign Office had told dozens of colleagues about a similar plan there when Mr Raab was in charge of their department.

They said civil servants should be accompanied to avoid "obnoxious" behaviour by the then foreign secretary.

As I understand it, claims like these have been raised with Adam Tolley KC - the lawyer investigating bullying claims against Mr Raab from at least 24 government officials.

Mr Raab totally denies any claims that he behaved inappropriately with civil servants.

They come after Dave Penman - general secretary of the FDA union representing civil servants - wrote to the prime minister, urging him to beef up the investigation process so that civil servants have confidence in its outcome.

Mr Penman made clear that he had confidence in Mr Tolley personally - but pointed out that the leading lawyer was only tasked with establishing the facts around Mr Raab's behaviour - leaving the prime minister to decide if the ministerial code has been broken or not.

The general secretary suggested that Rishi Sunak should allow his new ethics adviser - Sir Laurie Magnus - appointed after this investigation got underway - to make a recommendation on the code and subsequent action.

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"The lack of oversight from an independent adviser is not, however, simply a theoretical concern," he wrote.

"Over the past few months, you have deliberately chosen not to answer a direct question on whether you were aware of concerns over the conduct of the Deputy Prime Minister when you appointed him."

Mr Penman pointed to the outcome of a bullying inquiry into Priti Patel - when she was Home Secretary - when Boris Johnson was given the facts but chose not to take action.

Boris Johnson chose not to sack Priti Patel following the bullying inquiry.

Civil servants have told me that what happened had a "chilling effect" on the civil service, making officials much less likely to raise concerns about ministers. A spokesman for Mr Raab has said: "Dominic has high standards, works hard, and expects a lot from his team as well as himself.

"He has worked well with officials to drive the government's agenda across Whitehall in multiple government departments and always acts with the utmost professionalism."

The DPM once told me in an interview that no one had ever raised questions about this behaviour with him.

But the former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, Simon McDonald, suggested he did try to have a conversation with the then Foreign Secretary.

ITV News was leaked a survey from Mr Raab's private office in that department in 2019 - showing that eight members of staff claimed to have experienced bullying and 15 said they'd witnessed it. It was anonymous and did not pinpoint who the claims were about - but was far higher than comparable figures for the rest of the FCDO.

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