Dominic Raab bullying inquiry expanded to include new complaint, No 10 reveals – UK politics live

Downing Street has confirmed that the inquiry into bullying allegations about Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister, is being expanded to cover claims relating to his period as Brexit secretary, my colleague Pippa Crerar reports.

NEW: No 10 confirms deputy PM Dominic Raab is being investigated over third bullying allegation, this one relating to time as Brexit Secretary.

Other complaints already submitted are from MoJ and Foreign Office. I was told this week that more formal complaints are to come.

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) November 25, 2022

The inquiry was originally set up to consider two complaints, relating to his time as justice secretary and foreign secretary. But at the Downing Street lobby briefing a No 10 spokesperson said:

I can confirm that the prime minister has now asked the investigator to add a further formal complaint relating to conduct at the Department for Exiting the European Union and to establish the facts in line with the existing terms of reference.

The third formal complaint was received by the Cabinet Office on 23 November, the spokesperson said. She confirmed that Rishi Sunak still has confidence in Raab.

Here is a question from a reader below the line.

Hi Andrew, Steve Barclay says that the average salary of a newly qualified nurse is £31000. Please can you clarify that this isn’t true as a newly qualified nurse in England will earn £27,055, which goes up to £32934 only after being qualified for 4 years. Most nurses (42%) are band 5 nurses- which is within this pay bracket. Pay doesn’t increase any further than this unless you go up a band, where there are fewer jobs and so is not possible for most nurses. I feel that many news outlets aren’t making this clear- I have been qualified 7 years, work in intensive care and earn less than what is being portrayed as the average pay of £34000 and it’s very frustrating!

Steve Barclay says, under the government’s offer, a newly qualified nurse will earn more than £31,000 on average. (See 9.14am.) Supersair22 is right to say that, with the pay rise, the basic salary for a newly qualified nurse will be £27,055. But, according to the Deparment of Health, Barclay is assuming typical overtime and unsocial hours payments on top of that, which is why he says a typical nurse would end up getting more than £31,000 a year.

Almost 3,000 bus drivers in London are pressing ahead with a series of strikes next month which threaten to disrupt travel in the busy run-up to Christmas, PA Media reports. PA says:

Unite said 2,000 of its members employed by Metroline and 950 at Abellio will take seven days of action between December 1-17 in disputes over pay.

Unite said some of the Metroline drivers were paid just over 13 an hour and were struggling to keep their heads above water during the cost-of-living crisis.

The union said the company’s latest offer of a 10% pay increase and 9% on back pay was rejected by the workforce, as it amounted to a real terms pay cut because of the rate of inflation.

The Metroline workers, who are based across north and west London, will be striking on December 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 15 and 16.

The first three days of the industrial action will be co-ordinated with Abellio bus drivers in south and west London, who have a separate industrial dispute over pay.

Sir Gary Streeter has become the latest Conservative MP to announce that they will not stand at the next general election. Streeter represents South West Devon and has been an MP for 30 years.

Today I’ve announced that I will not be seeking re-election at the next general election. It has been an honour and privilege to serve the people of South West Devon and I will continue to do so until the next election.

— Gary Streeter MP (@garystreeterSWD) November 25, 2022

Conservative MPs have been asked to tell CCHQ by 5 December whether or not they intend to stand again at the next election and, with the party’s electoral prospects looking grim, it is thought as many as 50 may stand down.

My colleagues Jessica Elgot, Pippa Crerar and Peter Walker have a long article here describing the mood on the Tory backbenches.

People sometimes ask what Liz Truss is up to at the moment. Well, today, according to her Twitter feed, she has been campaigning for a new hospital for her constituents.

The main building @TeamQEH urgently needs replacing.

Today @jamesowild, Cllr Stuart Dark and I are submitting a letter to the Secretary of State backed by community leaders calling for a new build hospital.

This is vital for my constituents.

— Liz Truss (@trussliz) November 25, 2022

Jo Johnson, the former Tory universities minister, told the World at One that stopping foreign students from attending non-elite universities (see 11.35am and 12.43pm) would be a mistake. He explained:

If you start going for a shorthand and saying, ‘Okay, we will say international students will go to Russell Group universities’ … then you would be gravely disadvantaging institutions in other parts of the country.

For example: Wolverhampton, Plymouth, Hull, where there aren’t Russell Group institutions. [They] who won’t benefit from a flow of students who top up institutional income, enable them to provide high-cost courses that they can’t deliver with the £9,250 they get for domestic fees, and provide really valuable resource for those institutions to do leading research.

So if you had to design a policy that was going to thwart our ambitions to become a science superpower, that was going to set back our ambitions to level up the country, this is basically it.

Sebastian Payne’s book about Boris Johnson (see 1.15pm) is a narrative account of his downfall, not an assessment of his premiership, and so it does not explore in full the extent to which Johnson was probably the most disreputable PM of the modern era. But another book, The Bonfire of the Decencies: Repairing and Restoring the British Constitution, by the historians Andrew Blick and Peter Hennessy, does cover this thoroughly.

“The experience of the Johnson premiership demonstrated a fragility at the very heart of our unsystematic system, for the prime protector of the norms and procedures that animate the decencies and probity of public and political life turned out to be a wrong ‘un, who repeatedly resisted the application of those requirements to himself,” Blick and Hennessy write.

It’s a short book, which does not have the verve of Hennessy’s narrative histories (it reads more like a select committee report), but if you are interested in the codes and rules that constitute the ethical plumbing of the constitution, and how they were trashed by Johnson, then this is the book for you. It is also a repair manual (Blick and Hennessy propose multiple reforms, including for example codifying the rules on what should happen if a PM wants to call a snap election to avoid a confidence vote – see 1.15pm), although of course the easier solution would be for the governing party not to elect a wrong ‘un as leader in the first place.

Keir Starmer has also accused the Tories of blocking essential development.

He was referring to the revolt by Conservatives who want the government to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets (where the government is on the pro-development side) and the dispute about onshore windfarms (where the government is on the anti-development side). Both rows showed the Tories could not govern in the interests of the country because they were divided, he said. He explained:

What we’ve seen, particularly in the last few days, is division and argument in the Conservative party about planning, whether it’s onshore wind farms – which are vital for our energy security, bringing our prices down – or whether it’s homes, which are vital.

That quarrelling, those arguments, are not just internal Conservative party issues, they have an impact.

It means we won’t get cheaper, secure energy as quickly as we should.

They are killing off the dream of home ownership, because they can’t agree amongst themselves.

Their entire party are a divided party and they are not really any longer able to show that they can govern the country.

Keir Starmer has also been speaking to broadcasters about the nurses’ strike. Here are the points he has been making.

The nurses have been driven to this by the government. That’s a badge of shame for the government. They’ve never taken strike action before. And for patients this is going to be devastating news. Nurses don’t want to go on strike.

Now it seems the health secretary is not even prepared to get around the table to continue negotiations to avoid the strike. [See 2.13pm.]

Frankly, if the government is that tired of governing, then they should get out of the way and allow a different government to come in and deal with the underlying questions, like the lack of staffing – we want to train up 15,000 new staff to come in. The cavalry is coming under a Labour government. We wouldn’t sit on our hands, as this government is doing.

It is about pay but it is also about staffing because, talk to anybody in the NHS – my wife works in the NHS – and they will tell you that they’re under so much strain when it comes to staffing.

That’s why our plan to use money, by getting rid of the non-dom status and using that to train up 15,000 new doctors, is a very important part of the discussion.

But as far the pay is concerned, what we would do is get around the table and resolve the issue. You would never have a Labour health secretary saying ‘I’m not going to get around the table and continue discussions’.

The proof is there. When Labour were in power we didn’t have strikes of nurses, and actually, we had fair pay for nurses.

Keir Starmer on a train to Birmingham today.

In his clip for broadcasters, Rishi Sunak said the nurses were asking for a pay rise of 19%.

But this morning Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said the nurses were asking for 17.6%.

@theRCN is demanding a massive pay rise of 17.6% – an increase around three times the average settlement that millions of hardworking people outside the public sector are getting.

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

UPDATE: The Royal College of Nursing says it is asking for a pay rise of its members of inflation (on the RPI measure) plus 5%. In September RPI inflation was at 12.6%, and an extra 5 percentage points would take that to 17.6%

Rishi Sunak has said that, whilst he has “enormous respect” for nurses, the pay rise they are demanding is “obviously unaffordable”.

The government says the Royal College of Nursing is demanding a pay increase that would in effect by worth 19%, costing £10bn. The RCN has said it does not recognise that figure as the cost of what it is proposing.

In a clip to broadcasters, Sunak said:

I have enormous respect and gratitude to our nurses as everyone does for the incredible job they do. And I know things are difficult right now for everyone because of what’s happening with inflation.

And that’s why our plans that we outlined last week will get a grip of inflation and bring it down. That’s really important.

And in the meantime, what the unions are asking for, I think, is a 19% pay rise. And I think most people watching will recognise that that’s obviously unaffordable, and that’s why I’m pleased that the health secretary is sitting down, talking to the union, and hopefully we can find a way through this.

In fact, in his most recent public comments on this, Steve Barclay, the health secretary, just said that he was willing to meet the RCN – not that a meeting was going ahead. He told broadcasters at lunchtime:

My door is open. I’m very keen to continue to engage with the RCN leadership to look at the other issues that are impacting, but it is important we also respect the independent pay review body’s findings and I have agreed to implement those in full.

But Barclay did meet Pat Cullen, the RCN general secretary, earlier this month.

Dozens of organisations ranging from the National Trust to TheCityUK and medical and engineering bodies have slated the government’s plans to axe up to 4,000 EU laws without due parliamentary process, it has emerged.

The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine warned that removal of EU law in relation to medical radiation used in X-rays and cancer therapy is “possibly very dangerous”.

The retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill committee has today published evidence submitted by 92 organisations including letters from Facebook owner Meta and the independent assessor, the regulatory policy committee, which has said the bill is “not fit for purpose”.

TheCityUK has criticised the failure to give a 90-day consultation process to business. It said:

It is normal good practice, in implementing or revising legislation, to consult stakeholders (indeed this is commonly highlighted as one of the attractions of the UK legal system.)

The British Chambers of Commerce voiced similar concerns that there was no consultation on the potential impact on business, with a survey of its members showing 30% were not even aware of REUL.

The Welsh Senedd said it would be “intolerable” to sunset legislation made by the devolved government, while the National Trust said it welcomed a review of EU law but the REUL was not a “credible path to achieving positive change”.

In his Telegraph story about the Boris Johnson/Liz Truss alliance on onshore windfarms (see 11.03am), Daniel Martin says that Truss and Johnson briefly discussed him being foreign secretary in her government before she became prime minister. As Martin says, that is one of the revelations in The Fall of Boris Johnson, a new book about the events leading up to Johnson’s resignation by the Financial Times journalist, Sebastian Payne. It’s out this week and, although the reasons for Johnson’s resignation are well understood, Payne turns it into a gripping story, with copious, insider detail that has not been reported before. I enjoyed it a lot. Here are 10 things I learnt from it.

1) The establishment drew up a plan to stop Boris Johnson calling a snap election as a means of seeing off a leadership challenge. Payne says that as Johnson was clinging on to power, in the period shortly before he announced his resignation, his inner circle did consider the snap election option. But Payne says officials at Buckingham Palace and in Downing Street had a plan to protect the Queen from being put in the position where she would have to decide whether or not to grant Johnson’s request for an election that was wholly unnecessary and entirely about his personal survival. A “magic circle” of Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, and Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, agreed they would stop Johnson being allowed to request a dissolution, Payne says:

As Johnson’s grip on power became more precarious, one senior Whitehall insider said of the moment: “If there was an effort to call an election, Tory MPs would have expected Brady to communicate to the palace that we would be holding a vote of confidence in the very near future and that it might make sense for Her Majesty to be unavailable for a day.” Another senior official confirmed it would be politely communicated to Downing Street that Her Majesty “couldn’t come to the phone” had Johnson requested a call with the intention of dissolving parliament.

2) Johnson’s inner circle also considered taking the 1922 Committee to court to stop it changing the rules to allow a second leadership challenge within 12 months, Payne reports. But this idea was ruled out on the basis of legal opinion saying the Conservative party is not responsible for how the 1922 Committee operates.

3) Johnson managed to win round some of the cabinet ministers who went to see him in Downing Street on the night of Wednesday 6 July to urge him to quit. Johnson did announce his resignation the following day, and so it has been assumed that the interventions from Nadhim Zahawi, Michelle Donelan, Kit Malthouse and Brandon Lewis helped to push him out. But Payne says Johnson managed to turn them round. Zahawi began by telling Johnson he should go, but ended their meeting discussing a future joint speech on the economy. Donelan went in saying she would resign, but was persuaded not to. (She did resign the following morning.) Malthouse was also temporarily won round, Payne reports. And Lewis arrived as a critic, but left thinking that he was going to be promoted to be chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster (replacing Zahawi, how was made chancellor on the Tuesday).

4) But Johnson finally realised it would be impossible to stay around 10.30pm that night, after Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, refused a promotion to replace Michael Gove as levelling up secretary. “At this moment, Johnson finally reasied it was over,” Payne reports.

5) Johnson told his inner circle that he had to quit becaue it would be unfair on Britain to give it a “D-list government”. Payne reports:

When [Simon] Clarke refused to take levelling up secretary, other names were mooted in the study, including one close Johnson ally who had served him loyally as a minister several times. After hearing the name of the minister being seriously suggested, Johnson told the room, ‘It’s not fair on the nation to give them a D-list government.’

Sadly, Payne has not been able to establish whether or this was Johnson’s way of conceding that his previous administrations were just C-list.

6) Johnson’s inner circle also took advice on how many ministers they actually needed to run a functioning government at around this point, Payne reports. He quotes a senior official saying: ‘We could have probably fudged it, it’s not like some hard and fast thing. If you have an attorney general, you’re okay, basically.’ Apparently in 1834 the Duke of Wellington ran the government more or less single-handedly for a month.

7) No 10 officials knew their Partygate conduct was questionable from the very start, even though they were insisting that Covid rules were followed. Payne says that when the Daily Mirror approached No 10 last year before running its first Partygate story, Dan Rosenfield, the then chief of staff, asked senior people in the press office what had actually happened. Payne goes on:

The sentiment of their discussion was that some things had gone on and that ‘with hindsight, it’s not something we should have done’ but no one argued restrictions were not observed. The aides then went to see Johnson, who needed no second invitation to get into a scrap with the left-leaning paper and take a firm line.

No 10 responded to the Mirror story by saying: “Covid rules have been followed at all times.” It then stuck to this line, even when it became clear it was untrue. Payne says it was Jack Doyle, the communications director, who told Johnson and Rosenfield that he thought all Covid rules were followed in the press office. But Payne also suggests Johnon was at fault for taking this assurance at face value.

8) Johnson agreed the plan to get Tory MPs to shelve the recommendation for Owen Paterson to be suspended from the Commons for breaking the rules on paid lobbying without even reading the standards committee report into what actually happened, Payne reveals. Doyle and Rosenfield had to insist that he did read the report. But at that point Johnson was committed to the plan to try to save Paterson.

9) No 10 thought it came “very close” to losing the support of Chris Whitty in the run up to Christmas 2021, Payne says. At that point Whitty, the chief medical officer, was pushing for tighter Covid restriction, but Johnson was under pressure from Tory MPs to resist. At the time it was clear from what was said in public that ministers and scientists were not fully in agreement, but Whitty never formally disowned government policy.

10) Boris Johnson wasn’t “Big Dog”. In the months before he resigned, it was reported that his allies were running Operation Big Dog to secure his leadership. Key figures in this unofficial whipping operation were Nigel Adams, the Cabinet Office minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary. At the time it was assumed that “Big Dog” referred to Johnnson, but Payne says it was an ironic nickname for Adams himself (who is on the short side). According to other reports, Adams will soon become Lord Big Dog.

Downing Street has played down reports that the government could ban foreign students from attending non-elite universities.

Asked about the story in today’s Times (see 11.35am), Downing Street insisted that the government backed the university sector. But it did confirm that ministers are looking at whether too many low-quality degrees are being awarded, and whether the rules on how many dependents foreign students can bring with them should be changed.

At the lobby briefing a No 10 spokesperson told journalists:

Of course we support our universities. They’re some of the very best in the world. And of course will always act in the best interest of the UK.

We’re looking at the issue of student dependants and and the quality of degrees and we’re doing that following the figures released yesterday.

The spokesperson said she could not “pre-empt” any policy and she declined to define what constitutes a “low-quality” degree.

Earlier, in response to the Times’s story, Vivienne Stern, the chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said banning foreign students from non-elite universities would be “an act of economic self-harm”. She said:

Cutting international student numbers would run directly counter to the government’s strategy to rebuild the economy – given the huge financial contribution they make to every part of the country.

International students make a net positive contribution of at least £26bn per year to the UK economy and are the source of almost 70% of our education export earnings. They sustain jobs in towns and cities up and down the country. They also bring enormous benefits to university campuses. The financial contribution they make has been essential, given the long term decline in funding for teaching UK undergraduate students, and balancing the books on research.

Limiting international students would be an act of economic self-harm that would damage many parts of the country the government aims to make more prosperous.

About The Author

Gigi Sague