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27 April 2023

Another minister in the firing line over bullying allegations

27 April 2023

Steve Barclay is “absolutely not” a bully, a Cabinet colleague insisted as the Health Secretary faced allegations about his conduct towards staff.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly defended Mr Barclay, saying he had given a “clear and completely unambiguous” response to the allegations.

Mr Barclay has not commented publicly but allies “totally deny” he is a bully.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it had not received any formal complaints over the behaviour of its ministers, but did not deny being aware of informal ones.

The Guardian reported that civil servants informally complained to the department’s top mandarin about how they were treated by Mr Barclay, while senior officials privately spoke of “bullying” and other “bad behaviour” by him.

But Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “I’ve worked with him on a number of occasions.

“He has made a statement making it absolutely clear that there have been no reports.

“His statement is clear and completely unambiguous, and I am completely convinced that that is accurate.”

The Guardian quoted unnamed sources as saying he was “challenging”, “constantly angry” and “hauls people over the coals and is generally a bit unpleasant”.

A source close to the Health Secretary said: “No complaint has been made.”

Asked whether they denied bullying, they said: “Totally deny.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The department has not received any formal complaints relating to the behaviour of its ministers.

“Any complaints, relating to ministers or members of staff, would be investigated in line with departmental guidance.”

It comes after Dominic Raab’s resignation as deputy prime minister and justice secretary last week when an independent inquiry found he had bullied civil servants.

Adam Tolley KC’s five-month investigation into eight formal complaints about Mr Raab’s conduct found he had behaved in a way that “undermines or humiliates” while foreign secretary and criticised the work of civil servant staff as “woeful” and “utterly useless” while justice secretary.

The concerns over Mr Barclay pre-date the release of the Tolley report, according to the Guardian.

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