MPs demand Dominic Cummings explain 'unclear' role in defence review

Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood says Boris Johnson’s chief spad has twice been called to give evidence
Dominic Cummings. Photo: David Mirzoeff/PA Archive/PA Images

By Jim Dunton

18 Aug 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s chief special adviser has been called to give evidence to MPs on the Defence Committee for a second time after declining a first invite, according to panel chair Tobias Ellwood.

Ellwood made the revelation after his committee launched a call for greater transparency on who is leading Johnson’s Integrated Defence and Security Review. It follows reports that Cummings had been granted permission to visit five classified national security sites earlier this year.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Ellwood said Cummings had yet to respond to the second request. While last week’s committee report did not mention the controversial chief spad by name, the MP – a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets – was specific about the need to examine Cummings’s role.

“It's unclear what his role is and yet he's happy to let it be known he is visiting clandestine agencies,” Ellwood said.

“We aren't even clear as to who is running the report. If we don't know who is running it then how can we test the parameters in which this review is being conducted?" 

Ellwood said Cummings should be “treated in the same way any minister, general or civil servant is treated" now that it had become clear he had “far greater involvement than anyone anticipated”.

He concluded: “You can't have someone with the mindset of Dominic Cummings running a coach and horses through our defence architecture without proper scrutiny and transparency." 

The PM launched the integrated review in February, with the government promising “the largest review of the UK’s foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War”.

Although it was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the review has since restarted, with the Cabinet Office unit leading on the review issuing a call for evidence on Thursday last week.

The Defence Committee’s report was also published on Thursday. MPs said more clarity was needed on the process, including “how and when” Boris Johnson himself will become involved.

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