Civil servants who were allegedly bullied by UK deputy prime minister Dominic Raab have “suffered mental health crises”, the leader of a union which represents senior Whitehall officials has said.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, also denied claims by allies of Mr Raab that the complaints against him are a politically motivated attempt to force him out.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has tasked lawyer Adam Tolley KC with investigating bullying claims against Mr Raab, with dozens of civil servants believed to be involved in eight formal complaints.
Mr Penman told Sky News: “I’ve spoken to people who are civil servants working and have worked for Dominic Raab, who have suffered mental health crises, have lost their careers essentially because they’ve had to move and change jobs.”
Mr Sunak is under growing pressure to explain what he knew about the allegations before appointing Mr Raab as his deputy and justice secretary.
Downing Street has only ruled out Mr Sunak being aware of “formal complaints”, as reports suggested he had been warned about his ally’s alleged behaviour.
Mr Sunak’s official spokesman declined to comment on Mr Penman’s claim about officials’ mental health being adversely affected by working with Mr Raab.
Mr Penman told the prime minister to “come clean”, adding that he is being “asked about whether he was aware of any informal concerns about Dominic Raab and, once again, he is refusing to answer that point”.
Allies of Mr Raab have suggested civil servants are trying to push him out, with one former colleague reported as saying “there is a clear attempt by a group of politically motivated mandarins to get him”.
“That’s extraordinary and it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Mr Penman said.
“Are we really seeing two dozen civil servants in three different government departments over a period of four years have got together in some massive conspiracy? That doesn’t sound credible.”
The union leader also said he was “astonished” by senior Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s warning to people against being “too snowflakey” about bullying allegations.
“This sort of behaviour destroys lives,” Mr Penman said.
“I mean it’s not just about careers, people’s lives and their mental health are at risk when they are subject to systematic bullying, and to belittle it in that way is absolutely outrageous from a former leader of the House and cabinet minister.”
He repeated his call for Mr Raab to be suspended pending the probe.
Opposition parties have called the prime minister “weak” for resisting such a move.
“It goes to the weakness of the prime minister that he’s not prepared to take action when faced with the facts,” said Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey.
“And one of the things we’d like to see is the independent adviser on ethical standards look into what the prime minister knew and when with respect to these allegations of bullying against Dominic Raab.”
Three permanent secretaries who led officials working under Mr Raab at the Foreign Office, Ministry of Justice and Brexit department are thought to have spoken to the inquiry into Mr Raab, who has always denied bullying.