Dominic Raab is determined to battle on as Rishi Sunak ponders whether to sack the Deputy Prime Minister after receiving a report into whether he bullied officials.
Mr Sunak received the report on Thursday morning but Downing Street was unable to say if the Prime Minister’s verdict, and the report itself, will come on Friday.
Mr Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, has read the report and maintains he has not mistreated colleagues or broken the Ministerial Code, the PA news agency was told.
A source close to Mr Raab said the Prime Minister has not asked him to resign and denied the pair had held talks over his future.
No 10 had promised that the Prime Minister’s verdict on the eight formal allegations would be published “swiftly”.
But as a decision was delayed a Downing Street source said Mr Sunak was “taking time to go through the report thoroughly”.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper has defended the time taken by the Prime Minister to reach a decision over the report into Dominic Raab’s conduct as “fair” to the officials who made complaints.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think actually that’s the fair thing to do both for the complainants, who made some serious complaints, but also for Dominic Raab.
“I think for both sides in this the Prime Minister should take the time.”
He also told Sky News: “He’ll want to reach a conclusion as quickly as he can.”
The minister refused to be drawn on whether Rishi Sunak is minded to show the report to his ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus.
He said: “Fundamentally this is a decision for the Prime Minister about who serves in the Government.
“He’ll take that decision in the careful, meticulous way he reaches all his decisions.”
Labour accused Mr Sunak of lacking the “guts” to sack his ally and said the decision was distracting him from leading the country.
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry told PA: “I think it’s another example of Conservative chaos and not addressing the problems of the country.
“He’s going to spend tonight looking at the report and trying to summon up the courage to work out whether he should sack his deputy or not when really what he should be doing is focusing on a cost-of-living crisis.
“He’s got the report, read the report, if he’s a bully, sack him.”
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, including complainants who have levelled allegations against Mr Raab, called the delay a “farce”.
“Imagine being a civil servant who has been brave enough to raise a complaint against the Deputy Prime Minister, sitting in a government department, and you’re watching this farce play out live on television, not knowing what your fate is going to be about the complaints you have raised,” Mr Penman told PA.
“No-one knows what is going to happen now, there are no rules associated with any investigation, there are no rights for anyone who raises a complaint.”
If Mr Sunak decides to keep Mr Raab on, morale in the Civil Service could be dented without a convincing argument. There have been suggestions that senior Ministry of Justice officials could quit if he is cleared.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “People will be fed up with this dither and delay from Rishi Sunak.
“It feels like almost every week there is an issue with sleaze and scandal where Rishi Sunak is either implicated himself or too weak to get to grips with it.
“People are crying out for a Government that will just get on with tackling the issues that matter, not focused on saving their own skin.”
The eight complaints against Mr Raab centre on his behaviour as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary.
Press Association – Sam Blewett