Dominic Raab has insisted he has “behaved professionally at all times” despite facing growing allegations of bullying and intimidating behaviour.
Yesterday, a number of the deputy PM’s former private secretaries told the BBC they were preparing to submit formal complaints about his behaviour.
Newsnight was also told that Mr Raab used his personal email account for government business at two separate departments – once as recently as 2021.
But Mr Raab said: “I have always adhered to the ministerial code, including the use of my iPhone.”
He added that he had “always been careful to protect the integrity of any communications” he has.
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Asked whether he had been informed that more senior officials who worked most closely with him on a daily basis had submitted complaints, Mr Raab said: “I have behaved professionally at all times.
“And I am the one that when the complaint came in a matter of days ago, the first that had ever come against me since I have been a minister since 2015, [I] called for an independent inquiry and I look forward to dealing with it fully and transparently rather than dealing with anonymous comments in the media.
“I have always adhered to the ministerial code, including my use of my iPhone.”
Asked how this did not constitute breaching the ministerial code, the deputy PM replied: “It is very clear, I took advice on it. I am confident in that.”
Probed on reports that senior civil servants told him not to use his personal phone for government business, Mr Raab dismissed the claims as “anonymous speculation”.
He added that he had “always taken advice” on how to conduct communications and, when asked why he used his personal phone for some things, replied that it was “entirely legitimate and in line with the guidance that we have”.
“I haven’t broken the ministerial code, I am confident, in any of the ways you are asserting,” Mr Raab said.
Earlier today, Downing Street said Rishi Sunak still had full confidence in his deputy despite the fresh allegations.
If lodged, the allegations by the former private secretaries could be included in the investigation into Mr Raab being carried out following two formal complaints of bullying by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has called for Mr Tolley’s investigation to “immediately be expanded”.
Mr Raab denies all allegations of bullying made against him, but last week asked the PM to launch an inquiry into his own conduct.
If the deputy PM is found to have broken the ministerial code, he could be forced to resign.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain has demanded an investigation into Mr Raab’s use of his personal email account for government business.
“It is only right and proper the cabinet office investigate these reports and determine immediately if overseas enemies could have seen national secrets sent by Dominic Raab,” she said.
But Downing Street backed Mr Raab and rejected suggestions the investigation would be a whitewash, despite Mr Sunak’s ability to reject its findings.
The spokesperson also defended Mr Raab over his email use, telling reporters: “Ministers are able to use various forms of communication.
“As long as they take heed of that guidance, there is not a binary restriction on use of personal email addresses.”