Raab refused to speak to staff during Afghan evacuation, sources claim

Dominic Raab’s ‘refusal to speak to Foreign Office staff he viewed as “time-wasters” caused a “blockage” during the evacuation from Afghanistan last year,’ sources claim

  • Raab’s working relationship with officials allegedly had negative impact on Foreign Office efforts
  • Understood that Raab denies the latest claims about his handling of Afghanistan
  • Alleged that some decisions were delayed and backed up as he only allowed small number of staff to engage with him and private office 
  • Comes as he already faces bullying allegations after two formal complaints made

Days after Dominic Raab asked the PM for an independent investigation over bullying allegations against him, he is today facing fresh questions- after it was reported that his refusal to speak to Foreign Office staff he viewed as ‘time-wasters’ allegedly caused a ‘blockage’ during the evacuation from Afghanistan last year.

Raab was the subject of a fresh report in the Guardian on claims that his working relationship with officials had a negative impact on Foreign Office efforts with his oversight of the evacuation amid the Taliban’s power-grab coming in for heavy criticism. 

It is understood that Raab denies the latest claims, which suggest that ahead of the final stages of the UK withdrawal from Afghanistan some decisions were ‘delayed and backed up’ as the then-foreign secretary allowed only a small number of senior staff to engage with him and his private office. 

According to the publication, Raab described some senior Foreign Office officials as ‘time wasters.’ A source said that quick decisions were needed but ‘we could not get him to listen to this message, let alone act on it.’  

The source said that the blockage was ‘very costly.’  When the Taliban swept across the country in August 2021, Raab was on holiday in Crete and was seen relaxing on a beach on the Greek island as members of the militant group entered Kabul, although he insisted that he was in touch with officials and ministerial colleagues.

The allegations come as Raab already faces an investigation into his conduct after two formal complaints were made against him from his time as foreign and justice secretary. Mr Raab’s later spell at the Ministry of Justice followed his demotion from foreign secretary in September last year, after widespread criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

Raab was the subject of a fresh report in the Guardian on claims that his working relationship with officials had a negative impact on Foreign Office efforts with his oversight of the evacuation amid the Taliban’s power-grab coming in for heavy criticism

Raab responded to the allegations of bullying on Wednesday, telling the Commons that he was ‘confident’ he has behaved ‘professionally.’

Despite the claims, Downing Street has also said that Mr Sunak still has full confidence in his deputy PM. 

After Raab referred himself for an investigation, Mr Sunak wrote in a letter to him on Wednesday that ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability are core values of this Government’ and agreed that a probe was the ‘right course of action’. 

It is understood that Raab denies the latest claims, which suggest that ahead of the final stages of the UK withdrawal from Afghanistan some decisions were ‘delayed and backed up’ as the then-foreign secretary allowed only a small number of senior staff to engage with him and his private office

The Deputy PM had written to Mr Sunak: ‘I have just been notified that two separate complaints have formally been made against me, in parallel, from my time as foreign secretary and my first tenure as justice secretary, which ended in September of this year.

 ‘I am, therefore, writing to request that you commission an independent investigation into the claims as soon as possible. ‘I will co-operate fully and respect whatever outcome you decide.’ 

He also told him that he had  ‘never tolerated bullying, and always sought to reinforce and empower the teams of civil servants working in my respective departments’. 

Mr Raab is understood to reject the allegations in relation to Afghanistan, with it said that senior officials were responsible for the flow of information to him and he did not pick and choose who he wanted to hear from but rather followed the advice given to him.

MailOnline contacted Mr Raab’s spokesman for comment.  

According to the publication, Raab described some senior Foreign Office officials as ‘time wasters.’ A source said that quick decisions were needed but ‘we could not get him to listen to this message, let alone act on it’

It comes after Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary to the Department for Exiting the European Union had also raised concerns about Mr Raab’s behaviour during his time as Brexit secretary with the then-cabinet Mark Sedwill, the Guardian reported.

Also, while Raab was foreign secretary, he was reportedly warned about his behaviour towards officials. Lord McDonald, the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, raised the concerns with him and had several conversations with the head of the propriety and ethics team (PET) at the Cabinet Office between 2019 and 2020 about the issue. 

Speaking on LBC on Monday, McDonald acknowledged that allegations Mr Raab could be a bully were plausible.  Asked by LBC radio if characterisation of Mr Raab as someone who could bully and around whom bullying could happen, he replied: ‘Yes.’ 

Lord McDonald added: ‘Dominic Raab is one of the most driven people I ever worked for, he was a tough boss. 

‘Maybe they are euphemisms, but I worked closely with him and I didn’t see everything that happened.’ 

According to The Guardian’s sources, Lord McDonald spoke to Mr Raab on several occasions about how he treated staff in his private office and during meetings – although none made an official complaint. 

Speaking on Times Radio, Lord McDonald also claimed that staff were ‘scared’ to enter the minister’s office.  He said: ‘Colleagues did not complain to me formally, it was kind of their professional pride to cope, but many were scared to go into his office.

‘His sort of defence was that he treated everybody in the building in the same way. He was as abrasive and controlling with junior ministers and senior officials as he was with his private secretaries.’

Lord McDonald, the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, pictured, raised concerns about Raab’s behaviour with him and had several conversations with the head of the propriety and ethics team (PET) at the Cabinet Office between 2019 and 2020 about the issue

The peer added that Mr Raab could be ‘very curt’ with people and left staff feeling ‘demeaned.’

He said: ‘I tried to have that conversation with him, I had several conversations with him.

‘But it wouldn’t surprise me today if he said, “I don’t recognise that” because I felt at the time that my message wasn’t landing.’

The PM stood by Raab, telling reporters on the way to Bali with him for the G20 summit: ‘I don’t recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him.

 ‘Of course there are established procedures for civil servants if they want to bring to light any issues. ‘I’m not aware of any formal complaint about Dominic.’

Quizzed by ITV News, he said: ‘I’m not and have not been aware of any formal complaint about Dominic’s behaviour.

‘Of course there are established processes in place for people to raise concerns in all workplaces – private, public.

‘If people have concerns they should raise them because unless people raise them, it’s hard for people to actually then look into them and make any changes that are necessary.

‘So I would urge people to do that. Those processes are confidential and it’s right that they are used.’

A spokesman for Mr Raab told The Guardian: ‘Dominic had frequent discussions with his permanent secretary at the Foreign Office about how best to run the department and ensure that it delivered to the highest standard in challenging circumstances such as during Covid.’ 

The FDA chief Dave Penman, pictured, urged Sunak to appoint a new independent advisor on ministers’ interests. In a letter to the Prime Minister, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: ‘As we have seen over the last few weeks, there is increasing scrutiny over the conduct of ministers and, in particular, accusations of bullying – behaviour that has no place in a modern workplace’

Mr Sunak was urged by the head of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, to appoint a new independent advisor on ministers’ interests. The post has been vacant since Lord Geidt quit in June – and reform the complaints system to help address a ‘toxic work culture’ in Whitehall. 

In a letter to the Prime Minister, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: ‘As we have seen over the last few weeks, there is increasing scrutiny over the conduct of ministers and, in particular, accusations of bullying – behaviour that has no place in a modern workplace.’ 

He has called on Mr Sunak to overhaul the complaints system to address a ‘toxic work culture’ in Whitehall.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner demanded an independent investigation into Mr Raab. She said: ‘Rishi Sunak clearly knew about Dominic Raab’s reputation when he reappointed him to his Cabinet.’

The Liberal Democrats have written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to ask for a list to be published of ministers with ‘credible allegations of bullying’ made against them. 

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner demanded an independent investigation into Mr Raab. ‘Rishi Sunak clearly knew about Dominic Raab’s reputation when he reappointed him to his Cabinet,’ she said

The allegations against Mr Raab come a week after Mr Sunak was stung by Gavin Williamson’s resignation as a Cabinet Office minister amid separate bullying claims.

The PM is also continuing to face scrutiny over his decision to reappoint Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, just six days after she was forced to quit the role over security breaches. 

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has demanded an independent investigation into Mr Raab.

The allegations against Mr Raab come a week after Mr Sunak was stung by Gavin Williamson’s resignation as a Cabinet Office minister amid separate bullying claims

Mr Raab’s spokesman said: ‘Dominic has acted with professionalism and integrity in all of his Government roles.

‘He has an excellent record of driving positive change in multiple Government departments by working well with officials.

‘He holds everyone, and most of all himself, to the high standards that the British people would expect of their Government.’

MailOnline contacted the Ministry of Justice and Dominic Raab’s spokesman for comment. 

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