Sunak urged an ethics consultant to be consulted over Raab’s allegations of bullying

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Rishi Sunak must ask his ethics adviser to help decide if Dominic Raab is a serial bully or if he risks losing public trust, a union leader said.

The prime minister alone will decide whether his deputy and justice minister has breached the ministerial code after eight separate complaints in three departments.

Under the terms of the bullying inquiry, independent investigator Adam Tolley KC will only establish “the concrete facts” surrounding the allegations, which Sunak will then rule on.

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, wrote to Sunak on Wednesday, urging independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Laurie Magnus, to join the Prime Minister in examining Tolley’s findings and reaching a verdict on Raab.

“The independent counsel’s role in establishing these facts and providing advice on the allegations and the ministerial law is critical to instilling confidence in officials and the public,” he said.

“Let me be clear that we are in no way raising any concerns about the integrity or conduct of Adam Tolley KC – quite the contrary. It is the lack of independent input into decision-making following its investigation that worries us.”

Sunak is under increasing pressure to say what he knew about the claims about Raab when he was appointed in October.

Critics were concerned about Sunak’s November interview with the BBC’s Chris Mason, in which he repeatedly refused to say whether he had received informal warnings about Raab’s alleged bullying behavior before bringing him back to Cabinet.

Alluding to the interview, Penman wrote that Sunak’s lack of clarity undermined confidence in the investigative process.

“In recent months you have made a conscious choice not to answer a direct question as to whether you were aware of concerns about the deputy prime minister’s behavior when you appointed him. They have also repeatedly relied on the lack of a formal complaint as a fallback tactic on the matter,” he said.

There has been a lack of formal complaints against Raab, Penman said, because Priti Patel has kept her job as Home Secretary, despite a formal inquiry finding evidence that she had been bullying her staff.

“The formal complaints procedure was fatally undermined by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to ignore the bullying findings against Priti Patel. It therefore comes as no surprise to any interested party that officials did not have confidence in the procedure for making formal complaints under the Ministerial Act,” Penman wrote.

Magnus, a former banker and Quango boss, was appointed Sunak’s ethics adviser in December after filling the post six months late.

In his first major investigation, Magnus found last month that Conservative Party leader Nadhim Zahawi had committed a “serious breach” of the code by failing to tell officials he was under investigation by the IRS when he was appointed Chancellor by Johnson. Zahawi was subsequently released.

He took over the role from Christopher Geidt, who resigned as independent adviser on ministerial interests under Boris Johnson in June following disagreements over how to handle the Partygate affair.

In November 2020, Sir Alex Allan resigned from the same job in protest after Johnson refused to fire Patel despite the findings of the bullying inquiry.

Tolley, who has experience handling whistleblower claims, was tasked by Sunak in November to investigate complaints “in confidence”.

Penman’s demands come as Raab fights for his political career while facing allegations from dozens of officials. The Deputy Prime Minister denies any wrongdoing.

The Guardian announced last week that all three Mandarins who had worked with Raab while he held cabinet posts had been interviewed by Tolley. The Guardian first published allegations of bullying against Raab in November.

When asked to respond to the contents of Penman’s letter, a No. 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has asked for the facts to be established and these are being carried out by the independent and experienced lawyer who is carrying out this work, Adam Tolley KC, set forth.”


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