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Anger over Westminster security pass for Cummings

The Observer[1]Dominic Cummings[2]

MPs demand to know why Boris Johnson’s aide has access despite being in contempt of parliament




Dominic Cummings had refused to appear before a Commons committee investigating fake news.Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Senior MPs have demanded to know why Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s adviser, has been granted a security pass for the Palace of Westminster even though he has been found in contempt of parliament[3]. The former head of the Vote Leave campaign, who is now employed inside No 10, was sanctioned in March this year for failing to appear before the digital, culture, media and sport committee’s inquiry into fake news. MPs on the Commons committee of privileges found that his refusal to give oral evidence constituted a significant interference in the work of the inquiry.

Damian Collins, chair of the media committee, said at that time that Cummings[4] had shown a “total disregard” for the authority of parliament and called for statutory powers to “reassert the authority that is missing”. Cummings, now employed as a special adviser to Boris Johnson, was seen in parliament several times last week as a cross-party group of MPs seized control of the parliamentary timetable. They tabled a bill to force Johnson to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline from 31 October to 31 January, if no agreement has been reached with Brussels by the middle of next month.

At one point last week Cummings reportedly confronted Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, in parliament and challenged him over whether he would support a general election to break the deadlock over Brexit. A highly divisive figure, Cummings was also at the centre of a row within government when he sacked Sonia Khan[5], a special adviser to the chancellor Sajid Javid, without the chancellor’s knowledge, and then asked an armed police officer to march her out of Downing Street.


Anger over Westminster security pass for Cummings

Cummings was at the centre of a row after he sacked one of Sajid Javid’s special advisers. Photograph: Reuters

Last night Steve Doughty, a Labour member of the home affairs select committee, tabled a series of parliamentary questions asking the House of Commons Commission, which has responsibility for granting access to parliament, “whether individuals who have been found in contempt of parliament are eligible for Commons security passes” and on what grounds Cummings was granted one.

Kate Green, the chair of the Commons privileges committee, said her committee was already looking into whether “the powers and sanctions” that the House has in such cases were adequate. “We are currently conducting an inquiry into precisely this question,” Green said. Doughty has also written to Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, to ask about the level of security vetting Cummings has received. The government’s application form for vetting warns that individuals might be rejected over “instances of dishonesty or lack of integrity [that] cast doubt upon an individual’s reliability”.

Doughty said last night: “Serious questions must be answered as to how an individual found in contempt of parliament, and over whom other allegations hang unanswered and unresolved, can be wandering around the parliamentary estate at will. “Of equal importance the public have the right to know whether such an individual, at the heart of government, with access to the PM and potentially highly confidential papers and communications – has received the appropriate level of security clearance.” Asked about Cummings’s access to parliament and the level of security checks he had undergone, a Cabinet Office spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on an individual’s employment.”

Special advisers are bound by the same standards of integrity and honesty required of all civil servants, as set out in the Civil Service Code. The abrasive and unorthodox approach of Cummings has caused consternation in parliament, with former prime minister John Major among his growing number of critics. Last week Major warned that Johnson’s advisers could “poison the political atmosphere beyond repair”.

Roger Gale, a senior Conservative MP, went further last week, dismissing Cummings as “an unelected foul-mouthed oaf” for his role in the prime minister’s deeply contentious decision to suspend parliament for five weeks, call for a snap election and withdraw the Tory whip from grandees including Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames.

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References

  1. ^ The Observer (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Dominic Cummings (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ contempt of parliament (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ Cummings (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ sacked Sonia Khan (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ Dominic Cummings (www.theguardian.com)
  7. ^ The Observer (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ news (www.theguardian.com)
  9. ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
  10. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
  11. ^ Email (www.theguardian.com)
  12. ^ LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com)
  13. ^ Pinterest (www.pinterest.com)
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  16. ^ Reuse this content (syndication.theguardian.com)

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