It is possible to have high standards and a workplace free from bullying, Dominic Raab has said, as he insisted he had always “behaved professionally” towards staff.
The Deputy Prime Minister, who is facing an inquiry into his conduct, said he would “engage” with the investigation.
Mr Raab, who is also the Justice Secretary, is being investigated by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC over bullying allegations – with dozens of officials thought to be involved in eight formal complaints.
“I’m confident I have behaved professionally at all times. And I will engage with the inquiry, and of course I would not want to say anything that prejudiced it.”
Asked by the newspaper if he was any more robust than former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, he said: “I think it’s difficult to compare different eras.
“But I think standards of professionalism, whether they’re in the business sector, the voluntary sector or the public sector, should involve setting high standards and zero bullying, and those two things are perfectly reconcilable.”
The Prime Minister has resisted calls for Mr Raab to be suspended or to step aside while he is investigated, with Rishi Sunak instead waiting for the inquiry to conclude.
“The independent adviser is conducting his investigation; I can’t prejudge the outcome of that investigation. It’s right that it concludes,” the Prime Minister said earlier this week.
“But as people have seen from how I’ve acted in the past, when I’m presented with conclusive independent findings that someone in my Government has not acted with the integrity or standards that I would expect of them, I won’t hesitate to take swift and decisive action.
“That’s what I’ve done in the past. But with regard to this situation, it’s right that we let the independent process continue.”
Mr Raab used an article in the same newspaper to stress the “crucial” role of abstinence-based treatment in prisons as part of efforts to reduce the reliance on methadone to treat those with heroin addictions.