LONDON – British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab resigned from the government on Friday after an independent investigation into complaints that he bullied colleagues.
It is the latest scandal to force out one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's top ministers.
Mr Raab is the third senior minister to leave over issues related to personal conduct in the last six months.
The departure will damage Mr Sunak's efforts to revive the governing Conservative Party's fortunes.
It is also a major embarrassment as he had entered Downing Street last October promising a government of integrity.
Mr Raab's resignation comes just two weeks ahead of English local council elections where Mr Sunak's Conservatives are predicted to fare badly.
Mr Sunak's office declined immediate comment.
“I called for the inquiry and undertook to resign if it made any finding of bullying whatsoever,” Mr Raab's letter said. “I believe it is important to keep my word.”
As deputy prime minister, Mr Raab had no formal powers but stepped in for the prime minister if he was away from Parliament or incapacitated.
However, he was a close political ally of Mr Sunak and helped launch his campaign to be prime minister last summer.
The resignation will do little to improve the public perception of his government following the scandal-ridden tenure of Mr Boris Johnson and the chaotic economic policies that brought down Mr Sunak's predecessor, Ms Liz Truss, after less than two months.
The months-long investigation into Mr Raab's behaviour heard evidence from multiple government officials about complaints of bullying at three different departments.
Mr Raab had requested the investigation last November after formal complaints about his behaviour by government officials.
He said he felt “duty bound” to accept the outcome of the inquiry but also staunchly defended his conduct.
He said the report, which has not yet been publicly released, had concluded he had not once sworn, shouted or physically intimidated anyone in 4½ years, and had dismissed all but two of the claims against him.
Mr Raab said setting the threshold so low for bullying “set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government”.
This will “have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government – and ultimately the British people”, he said in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister.
Mr Raab referred to the two incidents where there was a finding of bullying against him – one at the foreign office in dealing with a senior diplomat's handling of the Brexit negotiation over Gibraltar, and one where he gave critical feedback during an earlier stint at the Ministry of Justice from 2021 to 2022.
Mr Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, accused Mr Sunak of “weakness” for failing to sack his deputy rather than letting him resign.
Another of Mr Sunak's senior ministers, Mr Gavin Williamson, was forced to resign last November after bullying allegations.
The Prime Minister also sacked Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi in January after he was found to have broken the ministerial code over openness about his tax affairs.
Mr Sunak is facing his own investigation by Parliament's standards watchdog into his behaviour over whether he properly declared his wife's shareholding in a childcare company that stands to benefit from new government policy.
The son of a Czech-born Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in 1938, Mr Raab studied law at Oxford University before becoming a lawyer working on project finance, international litigation and competition law.
He became a member of Parliament in 2010 and has had several senior ministerial jobs.