A former cabinet minister and Conservative party chair has called for Dominic Raab’s suspension during the ongoing bullying inquiry against him.
Mr Raab is currently being investigated by lawyer Adam Tolley KC over multiple allegations of bullying and intimidating behaviour.
Sir Jake Berry, the former party chair and minister without portfolio during Liz Truss’s short tenure as prime minister, said it would be “very bizarre” if someone were to remain in their role in any other workplace amidst such allegations.
Sir Berry told BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster that it would be “a big help” to Mr Sunak if he did suspend a minister under investigation.
“When you have 24 allegations outstanding against you – I read in the newspaper there are 24 – it would be very bizarre if you had someone in any other workplace who wasn’t suspended pending that investigation”, said Sir Berry. “MPs and ministers are not some form of special human being – I think they should just be treated like anyone else is in their workplace.”
Sir Berry suggested that the rules for ministers should be re-written to create a formal mechanism whereby they would be suspended during an investigation, and then reinstated if they were cleared. “We have a system in Parliament that you’re either in a job or you’re not in a job,” he said.
“I think that would be a big help to the Prime Minister if he had that additional tool in his box. It requires a bit of updating of the ministerial code and I think the public would welcome it.”
Mr Berry’s comments come after one former cabinet minister told The Independent earlier this week that Mr Raab, who denies bullying, “should stand aside”, saying his role in the cabinet is now “a distraction”.
“This has been going on for weeks, and while the prime minister talks about wanting fairness, at the same time this is too much of a distraction from what we need to do as a government,” they said.
And there have been further questions over Mr Raab’s alleged behaviour following claims by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, as reported in The Independent.
Ms Miller alleges Mr Raab was abusive towards both her and a BBC employee after they appeared together on Radio 4’s Today programme in 2016.
After the interview, a “young runner” ushered the pair into a lift, where Ms Miller was left alone with Mr Raab.
As the doors closed, she claims the MP turned to her and said: “I can’t make up my mind if you’re naïve, got too much money or just stupid. Just because you have deep pockets and friends in high legal places you think you can just go to court to stop the will of the people.”
Ms Miller told The Independent that she was “stunned” and “stayed quiet” following the alleged incident.
A spokesperson for the deputy prime minister said Mr Raab “rejects the description and characterisation” of him given by Ms Miller, and Downing Street said it is up to Mr Tolley whether he decides to investigate the allegations.
On Friday, Downing Street declined to confirm whether cabinet secretary Simon Case had been informed of complaints lodged against Mr Raab before Mr Sunak appointed him as both justice secretary and deputy prime minister.
“We’re not going to get into the process of appointments or the advice that the PM receives, or does not receive”, a spokesperson added.