Top Whitehall official had to apologize for alleged misconduct by Raab |  Dominic Raab

Top Whitehall official had to apologize for alleged misconduct by Raab | Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab behaved so badly in a meeting with the Home Office during his first term as justice secretary that the department’s top official had to apologize to colleagues afterwards, the Guardian has been told.

Whitehall sources said the deputy prime minister, who is facing two official complaints over alleged bullying, had acted “so badly and inappropriately” at a high-level meeting earlier this year that the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was forced to call senior officials in the then Home Secretary , Priti Patel, to express regret.

An insider suggested that the most senior MoJ official, Antonia Romeo, had taken the highly unusual step of apologizing on the minister’s behalf to prevent the incident from escalating into a formal complaint. However, it is unclear whether Raab was aware of her actions at the time.

None of the departments denied that the apology call had taken place. An MoJ spokesperson said: “The Ministry of Justice works hand in hand with the Home Office and calls between officials to follow up cross-departmental meetings are standard procedure.”

Rishi Sunak has faced questions about his judgment in re-appointing Raab as justice secretary following a series of allegations about his behavior towards officials across three different departments, including the MoJ, the Foreign Office and the Brexit department.

The allegations of his “bullying” have now sparked calls for an inquiry into the “toxic culture” at the Foreign Office while he oversaw the chaotic withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, as well as the Home Office review following the Windrush scandal.

The prime minister has backed his deputy but has agreed to launch an investigation into two formal complaints against him by civil servants who worked with him at the Foreign Office and the MoJ.

However, the inquiry is on hold until No. 10 appoints an external person to carry it out. Sunak is also under pressure to fill the independent ethics adviser position, vacant for five months. Raab has previously said he has “never tolerated bullying” and has “always sought to strengthen and empower” civil servants.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Dominic Raab is leaving a trail of senior officials forced to spend their time apologizing for his toxic behavior and reading him the riot act, rather than focusing on making Britons safe on our streets.

“This shameful incident shows that his misbehavior is not only an embarrassment to the department he claims to lead, but hinders the functioning of government.

“Rishi Sunak promised to bring integrity to the steps of No 10, but now the deputy he reappointed already faces an independent inquiry into his conduct with a series of revelations that his unacceptable behavior casts a shadow over his government.”

The Guardian reported that his refusal to speak to some of the Foreign Office staff he considered “time wasters” led to “blockages” during the Afghanistan evacuation, with staff at two departments he ran forced to call in sick because of his alleged behaviour.

Sources claimed the deputy prime minister’s behavior reinforced the chaotic exit of British forces during the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021, which officials warned had been “expensive” and caused “long-lasting” damage.

The allegations of Raab’s “bullying” behavior have led to Labor calling for an inquiry into the culture of the Foreign Office in line with the root and branch review of the Home Office carried out by Wendy Williams following the Windrush scandal.

David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said there appeared to have been a “deeper trend of toxicity, dysfunction, bullying and failing morale” which may have “damaged Britain’s influence on the global stage”.

He also cited an internal civil service inquiry which found the Foreign Office ranked in the bottom three departments for leadership: “There are now serious questions to be answered about whether allegedly bullying ministers have created a wider culture of toxicity in one of the major government offices.

“Britain’s great diplomats deserve to have ministers who uphold the highest standards and treat them with dignity and respect.

“In addition to individual investigations into Raab already underway, the FCDO needs an independent review of its culture to learn the lessons of the Tory failure so that a department that once boasted it was a model for diplomatic services around the world can do it again.”

New figures, obtained by the Guardian, also reveal that no officials working in the Foreign Secretary’s private office left the department in 2017-19, when Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were in charge.

Raab ran 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 have suggested the departures were accidental.

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