No 10 was warned about informal complaints made about Dominic Raab’s behaviour before Rishi Sunak named him his deputy prime minister, it has been reported.
It comes as all three of the top civil servants running departments where Mr Raab allegedly bullied staff have given evidence to the official investigation into his conduct.
The Cabinet Office made officials at No 10 aware of “issues” with Mr Raab in previous jobs, which had not reached the formal complaint stage, before his appointment in October, according to The Times.
However, sources told the newspaper that the prime minister was not “directly told” about the informal concerns, and that he was not advised against appointing the senior Tory figure.
Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said on Monday that the PM had the “requisite information” to make the appointment, adding: “At the time he was not aware of any formal complaints.”
It comes as Sir Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Brexit department, and Antonia Romeo, current permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, are said to have given evidence about Mr Raab to the inquiry.
Both top mandarins, who worked closely with Mr Raab, have been interviewed in recent weeks, according to The Guardian and the BBC.
It has previously been reported that the Foreign Office’s former permanent secretary Simon McDonald has given evidence to the independent probe being carried out by Adam Tolley KC.
Ms Romeo told MPs on the justice select committee that it “wouldn’t be appropriate for me to make any comment” while the investigation was still being carried out.
Mr Raab – who denies bullying allegations and has said he was “confident I behaved professionally throughout” – is facing calls from some Tory MPs to resign and avoid further distraction for the government.
One minister who worked with Mr Raab told The Times saw “bullying and intimidating” behaviour towards civil servants that “more than being a robust minister”.
Staff told The Mirror compared working with the minister to being in a “controlling and abusive relationship”, with claims he would “belittle, demean and humiliate” them.
Former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg was condemned after he warned against being “too snowflakey” over bullying allegations as he defended Mr Raab.
“We mustn’t be too snowflakey about it. People need to be able to say this job has not been done well enough and needs to be done better,” he told Sky News.
Labour claimed Mr Rees-Mogg was trying to “belittle the serious claims of bullying and intimidation” and “should be ashamed of himself”.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have urged Mr Sunak to suspend Mr Raab while he is under investigation by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC.