Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab should be suspended while he is investigated over bullying allegations, a former Conservative chairman has said.
Mr Raab, who is also the justice secretary, is the subject of an inquiry after several civil servants made complaints, which Jake Berry believes is enough for him to step aside from his ministerial roles.
Rossendale and Darwen MP Mr Berry, who was succeeded as Tory Party chair by the recently sacked Nadhim Zahawi, said the former foreign secretary should be “treated like anyone else is in their workplace”.
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Speaking to The Guardian’s political editor Pippa Crerar on BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster programme, Mr Berry said: “The way these sorts of complaints would be dealt with in the private sector is you would be suspended while they were investigated.”
Mr Raab submitted himself to the investigation, but denies the claims against him.
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Lack of suspension looks ‘bizarre’
Calling for an update to the ministerial code, Mr Berry said that it would be “very bizarre” if someone in a different industry was not suspended pending investigation.
While Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure to suspend his number two, there is currently no formal mechanism allowing ministers to be suspended during inquiries.
“I think that would be a big help to the prime minister if he had that additional tool in his box,” Mr Berry said.
However, even under the current rules, Mr Raab could be sacked on the understanding he is brought back if he is cleared of misconduct by lawyer Adam Tolley, who is leading the investigation.
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Former chancellor Mr Zahawi was sacked as Tory chair last month after an inquiry into his tax affairs, but Mr Sunak was criticised for failing to act sooner.
Allies of the PM have said he was unaware of allegations against Mr Raab before he appointed him, but a source has alleged to Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby that he was told of “unacceptable behaviour”.
The formal complaints made against Mr Raab go back more than four years – they include from his time as Brexit secretary from July to November 2018, and foreign secretary from 2019 to 2021.
They also relate to his time in the Ministry of Justice, where he first served under Boris Johnson‘s premiership before being reappointed by Mr Sunak in October.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have already called for Mr Raab to be suspended.