Raab should be suspended until bullying inquiry concludes, civil servants’ union says – UK politics live

Raab should be suspended until bullying inquiry concludes, civil servants’ union says

One person who probably did not welcome the sacking of Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday was probably Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister. Raab is the subject of an investigation into claims that he bullied officials working for him, and, with Zahawi gone, journalists are now focusing a lot more on the Raab story.

The results of their enquiries feature prominently in the papers today.

  • My colleagues Pippa Crerar and Jamie Grierson in the Guardian revealed that all three Whitehall mandarins who worked with Raab while he was holding cabinet positions have now been interviewed by the official inquiry into his alleged bullying.

Civil servants flagged that there had been “issues” with Raab in his previous departments before Sunak decided to bring him back into government. Downing Street sources insisted that the prime minister was not “directly told” and that officials never advised against appointing Raab.

Civil servants claim they suffered breakdowns and felt suicidal over Dominic Raab’s alleged bullying.

And staff insist working with the Tory felt like being in a “controlling and abusive relationship”.

Witnesses also claim the deputy PM would switch his anger on and off depending on whether it was civil servants or ministers in the room.

Raab has repeatedly denied bullying staff and insisted that he “behaved professionally at all times”.

But this morning his position became more precarious when Dave Penman, head of the FDA, the union that represents senior civil servants, told the Today programme that Raab should be suspended from his ministerial post until the inquiry into his behaviour concludes. Penman said:

Dominic Raab is now facing investigations around eight separate complaints involving what we understand is dozens of civil servants in three separate government departments over a period of four years.

If that was any other employee, if that was a permanent secretary in the civil service, they would in all likelihood be suspended from their job while the investigation took place.

That’s not to prejudge the investigation. That’s to say if there are serious allegations of bullying and extensive allegations like this, that one of the considerations is how do you protect employees from that sort of behaviour? And while it’s being determined, you would normally suspend someone, given the seriousness and extent of those accusations.

Dave Penman.
Dave Penman. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

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In-work benefits may be encouraging employers to keep wages low, IFS thinktank says

Reforms to the benefit system introduced by Labour and Conservative governments over the past two decades have encouraged unemployed people into work, but not generally into well-paid or full-time jobs, a major report into welfare published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank says. It says:

Major policy reforms over the past 25 years have repeatedly followed a pattern of encouraging people into paid work (using both carrots and sticks) – especially if they do not live with another working adult. Such work is usually part-time, and often associated with very low earnings.

The tax credit expansions of the early 2000s, which offered income top-ups for low-earning households, mostly expanded support for working 16 hours per week but often implied strong financial disincentives to go further. Imposing job-search requirements on an increasingly large fraction of lone parents on out-of-work benefits did push many into employment, but essentially all of it was part-time and on weekly earnings less than the 40th [percentile of overall earnings].

The switch to universal credit – the current flagship reform of means-tested benefits in the UK – especially increases financial incentives to do so-called ‘mini-jobs’ at very low hours, and makes little difference to the incentive to shift from full- to part-time work.

The report also says that in-work benefits may be encouraging employers to keep wages down. It says:

Little is known about the impact of in-work transfers on wage levels – and so we do not know how many of the billions of pounds spent on them actually benefit the intended beneficiaries.

It is entirely possible that these benefits, by encouraging people into work, allow employers to pay lower wages than they otherwise would. The available empirical evidence base on this is limited, but suggests that the effect might be significant.

More evidence on this – and, crucially, on what other policies (such as the minimum wage) can help limit the unintended consequences for wages – would be extremely valuable. A very similar point applies to the impact of housing-related support on rent levels.

MPs have been told that paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have coerced young people with drug debts to take part in rioting, PA Media reports. PA says:

A community worker gave an example of a user’s debt being reduced by £80 for doing so.

Megan Phair, coordinator of the Journey to Empowerment Programme and member of the Stop Attacks Forum, said both loyalist and dissident republican groups use the tactic to force people on to the streets.

The Northern Ireland affairs committee was told this morning that paramilitary groups sell drugs to young people who cannot afford to pay for them, and then exploit them by using their debt.

Phair said some of the young people who took part in serious rioting at Lanark Way, close to a peace line off the Shankill Road in Belfast, in 2021 had been ordered to do so over drug debts.

Responding to today’s Times story about Dominic Raab (see 10.31am), the Liberal Democrats say Rishi Sunak should reveal what he was told about Raab’s behaviour before he appointed him to cabinet. Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dem deputy leader, said:

It’s time for the prime minister to come out of hiding and face the music. The public deserves to know the truth about what he knew and when, including the full disclosure of any advice given to him by the Cabinet Office.

Johnson claims people must be ‘out of their mind’ if they think he knowingly covered up No 10 partying against lockdown rules

TalkTV has released more extracts from the interview that Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, has recorded with Boris Johnson for the launch of her new show on the channel this Friday. The interview was recorded last week, and so it won’t be up to date, and, given that Dorries is probably Johnson’s number one fan in parliament, it won’t be Jeremy Paxman-style. But given some Tories want him back as leader, there is some interest in what he says.

In the extracts released today, he says people must be “out of their mind” if they think he knowingly covered up parties in No 10 that were breaking lockdown rules. He says:

I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before, and I hope it’s obvious to everybody, that anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in No 10, or then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to, that’s all strictly for the birds.

And if anybody thinks like that, they’re out of their mind.

In another extract, he also repeats the false claim he made yesterday about Brexit allowing the UK to roll out Covid vaccines more quickly than would otherwise have been possible, claiming “it is literally true that Brexit helped save lives”.

At the weekend other extracts from the interview were released, featuring Johnson calling for tax cuts and claiming that, under Labour, the UK would be “gravitationally sucked back into the orbit of the EU”.

Keegan says it is ‘not credible’ to think that teachers are regularly needing to use food banks

In her interview with Times Radio this morning, Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, was asked about reports that teachers are so badly paid they need to use food banks. In response, she said it was “not credible” to think that teachers were relying on them regularly. She said:

It’s not credible that people are using them every day, or every week, week in, week out.

The Trussell trust itself says that only 15% of people need more than three food vouchers a year, and they’re normally people who then get flagged …

So, I think the food banks are there for a reason, but they’re not being being used widely, I would imagine, by the profession.

Striking teachers from the National Education Union (NEU) on a bus heading into central London for the Protect The Right To Strike march.
Striking teachers from the National Education Union (NEU) on a bus heading into central London for the Protect The Right To Strike march. Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

Raab should be suspended until bullying inquiry concludes, civil servants’ union says

One person who probably did not welcome the sacking of Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday was probably Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister. Raab is the subject of an investigation into claims that he bullied officials working for him, and, with Zahawi gone, journalists are now focusing a lot more on the Raab story.

The results of their enquiries feature prominently in the papers today.

  • My colleagues Pippa Crerar and Jamie Grierson in the Guardian revealed that all three Whitehall mandarins who worked with Raab while he was holding cabinet positions have now been interviewed by the official inquiry into his alleged bullying.

Civil servants flagged that there had been “issues” with Raab in his previous departments before Sunak decided to bring him back into government. Downing Street sources insisted that the prime minister was not “directly told” and that officials never advised against appointing Raab.

Civil servants claim they suffered breakdowns and felt suicidal over Dominic Raab’s alleged bullying.

And staff insist working with the Tory felt like being in a “controlling and abusive relationship”.

Witnesses also claim the deputy PM would switch his anger on and off depending on whether it was civil servants or ministers in the room.

Raab has repeatedly denied bullying staff and insisted that he “behaved professionally at all times”.

But this morning his position became more precarious when Dave Penman, head of the FDA, the union that represents senior civil servants, told the Today programme that Raab should be suspended from his ministerial post until the inquiry into his behaviour concludes. Penman said:

Dominic Raab is now facing investigations around eight separate complaints involving what we understand is dozens of civil servants in three separate government departments over a period of four years.

If that was any other employee, if that was a permanent secretary in the civil service, they would in all likelihood be suspended from their job while the investigation took place.

That’s not to prejudge the investigation. That’s to say if there are serious allegations of bullying and extensive allegations like this, that one of the considerations is how do you protect employees from that sort of behaviour? And while it’s being determined, you would normally suspend someone, given the seriousness and extent of those accusations.

Dave Penman.
Dave Penman. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

UK government plays down report saying London and Brussels have reached customs deal that could end NI protocol dispute

Lisa O'Carroll

Lisa O’Carroll

Reports that the UK and the EU have reached a partial agreement to end the dispute over the Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland have been played down in London and Brussels.

The two sides have reportedly reached an agreement that would eliminate customs checks on goods entering the region from Great Britain, according to a report in the Times.

However, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) source indicated that the claim a deal had been struck did not reflect the reality of the current state of the talks.

The FCDO suggested the newspaper’s report was speculative, saying officials were engaged in “intensive scoping talks” with Brussels and declining to pre-empt the discussions.

The Times reported that the customs deal is largely based on the government’s proposals for a red and green lanes system – with the green lane for goods from Great Britain which are staying in the region and the red lane to check and control products going on to the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

The EU’s version of this plan – involving an “express” lane, rather than a “green” lane – requires customs paperwork on all goods to work but with minimum physical checks on lorries.

A separate agreement would be negotiated on exports of meat and live animals to Northern Ireland, with the UK agreeing to maintain EU veterinary standards on goods destined for the province.

Citing government sources, the Times also reported that Brussels has made concessions on the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a sticking point for both the European Research Group, a group of hardline pro-Brexit Tory MPs, and the DUP.

Various fudges have been proposed on the UK side including the creation of an arbitration panel as the first port of call with an advisory role for the ECJ.

Brussels sources have always maintained that disputes concerning EU law not settled in lower national courts can only be adjudicated by the ECJ which gives judges across Europe the final interpretation of EU law.

The European Commission declined to comment

Keegan admits she did not realise until recently teachers do not have to say in advance whether they will join strike

In interviews this morning Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, also admitted that she did not realised until recently that individual teachers did not have to say in advance whether or not they would be joining a strike. “It was a surprise to some of us that was in fact the law,” she told Times Radio.

She also hinted that she would like to change this. She said:

I did write to everybody urging them to be constructive, to let their heads know, and I am sure many teachers will have done that.

There are discussions around minimum service levels, minimum safety levels, around hospitals around rail – education is part of that bill as well.

We are hoping not to use that, we are hoping to make sure we continue with constructive discussions and relationships but these things will always stay under review.

Gillian Keegan says ‘majority’ of schools in England and Wales will be open today despite strike

The “majority” of schools in England and Wales will remain open today, despite the strike, Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, has claimed. My colleague Aletha Adu has the story here.

Rishi Sunak to face PMQs as mass strikes take place across Britain

Good morning. Rishi Sunak was only born in 1980, which means he wasn’t alive when governments of both parties were brought down to a large extent because they could not prevent industrial disputes in the 1970s, but he must know enough about British politics to realise that what is happening currently could make recovery for the Tories near impossible.

After Christmas Sunak initiated a series of talks between ministers and unions in the hope of resolving the disputes but, as we report in our overnight story about today’s “walkout Wednesday” day of mass strikes, that process has stalled.

Sunak has also been hoping that, with strikes increasingly inconveniencing the public, people might turn on the Labour party, to which some of the unions that have been on strike are affiliated (although not the National Education Union, which may cause more disruption today). But polling shows that there is no overwhelming public opposition to the strikes, and some groups of workers have more people supporting their strike action than opposing.

Polling on strikes
Polling on strikes. Photograph: Ipsos

Sunak will undoubtedly face questions on this at PMQs.

My colleague Geneva Abdul has a separate live blog covering the strikes. It is here.

But I will be covering some of the political aspects here too.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, meets his Australian opposite number, Penny Wong, in London.

11am: Striking teachers start a march through London, culminating in a rally at Westminster.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

4.30pm (UK time): Boris Johnson speaks at an Atlantic Council event in Washington.

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source: theguardian.com