Dominic Raab is known for his “robustness”, a former Cabinet minister said, as he admitted to a policy row with the Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Raab, who is also the Justice Secretary, is being investigated over bullying allegations with dozens of officials thought to be involved in eight formal complaints.
Ex-justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland said Mr Raab was “at the top end of the robustness scale”.
Sir Robert acknowledged that he had “a disagreement” with Mr Raab over a Daily Telegraph article he wrote criticising his plans for a British Bill of Rights, but they have “moved on now”.
The Times reported that Mr Raab tried to get Sir Robert sacked from the role he held as Welsh secretary at the time of the row in the summer of 2022.
The newspaper reported that Sir Robert told Rishi Sunak about the “intimidating” and “unacceptable” behaviour – something denied by the now-Prime Minister’s allies.
Downing Street has repeatedly stressed that Mr Sunak was not aware of any formal complaints about Mr Raab’s behaviour when he appointed him as Deputy Prime Minister in October 2022, although No 10 has refused to say whether he knew of any informal concerns.
When asked whether it was true that Mr Raab issued the threat over the Bill of Rights article, the Tory MP told LBC: “I don’t want to rake back through the coals of what happened last summer.
“Dominic and I have a disagreement about his Bill of Rights, clearly he wasn’t going to agree with the article that I did write in the Telegraph.
“I was talking about the Government to come – that is, the Government post-Boris Johnson – and felt that it was entirely appropriate to do that.
“There are robust disagreements in politics. I’m old enough and ugly enough to hold my own corner, and Dominic is known for his robustness as well. There was a disagreement, but we’ve moved on.”
Asked about Mr Raab’s approach, Sir Robert said he was “at the top end of the robustness scale, I don’t think anybody would deny that”.
Senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC was appointed by Mr Sunak to investigate the claims against Mr Raab once it was clear that formal complaints about his conduct had been made.
Mr Sunak has faced calls from unions, opposition MPs and even former Tory chairman Sir Jake Berry to suspend Mr Raab while the investigation is carried out.
Mr Raab has denied the bullying allegations.