Angela Rayner has challenged Dominic Raab to “walk before he’s pushed” over bullying allegations levelled against him.
Labour deputy leader Ms Rayner claimed Mr Raab knows “first-hand the misery caused by thugs and their intimidating behaviour” as she mocked the Justice Secretary and the Government’s new anti-social behaviour policy.
Mr Raab, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, is under investigation over eight formal complaints about his behaviour as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary.
Ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Raab said he believes “heart and soul” that he is not a bully, but defended his “forthright” approach to his work.
Ms Rayner seized on the allegations during the pair’s opening exchanges, telling the Commons: “This week the Government announced their so-called anti-social behaviour policy – it’s only taken 13 years and, look, I’ll give him some credit, the Deputy Prime Minister knows first-hand the misery caused by thugs and their intimidating behaviour.
“Lurking with menace, exploding in fits of rage, creating a culture of fear and maybe even, I don’t know, throwing things.
“So can I ask him under his new anti-social behaviour (policy): does he think more bullies will be brought to justice?”
Mr Raab, referring to a previous incident involving Ms Rayner, replied: “I can reassure the House that I’ve never called anyone scum.”
He added: “But if (she) is serious about standing up for communities and people who suffer at the scourge of anti-social behaviour, she’d back our plan to deal more swiftly with these issues, to make sure that we ban drugs beyond the conventional ones, give police the powers they need.
“And if they really want to protect the public they’ll back our plans for parole reform to make sure that murderers, that terrorists, that child killers are not allowed out free to threaten other people and re-introduce the ministerial veto that that side took away.”
After the pair clashed over the Government’s record on charging and prosecuting rape suspects, Ms Rayner said: “The reality is while people in Britain feel more and more unsafe, he seems to spend all of this time trying to save his own job and none of his time on his actual job.”
She added: “The way things are going, and if reports are to be believed, this might be your last PMQs – so let’s look at the highlights.
“A criminal justice (system) on its knees, the largest court backlog on record, rape victims waiting for justice and through it all, he managed to rack up 24 formal complaints from his own civil servants.
“So can he say today will he walk before he’s pushed?”
Mr Raab replied: “One thing never changes – she always comes with her usual bluster and political opportunism.”
He went on to defend the Government’s record, including on crime and public protection.
The pair were deputising at PMQs due to the absence of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to attend the funeral of former Commons speaker Baroness Betty Boothroyd.
Mr Raab earlier insisted he is “focused on the job” and there is “no point in complaining” about an investigation he requested.
Senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC was appointed in November to lead the investigation into Mr Raab’s conduct but the process is yet to conclude.
Mr Raab told Sky News: “Anyone accused of things that you feel very passionately and heart and soul are wrong, you will feel aggrieved, but I’m a professional – I’m very focused on the job I’m doing.”