Top civil servant to be grilled by MPs as lobbying scandal engulfs Westminster

26 April 2021, 07:27 | Updated: 26 April 2021, 17:34

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case will be grilled by MPs over the lobbying scandal
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case will be grilled by MPs over the lobbying scandal. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The UK's top civil servant is set to be grilled by MPs over the lobbying scandal and accusations made against Boris Johnson by his former senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case will appears before the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) on Tuesday afternoon following a week of explosive allegations against the Prime Minister and former PM David Cameron.

Mr Cummings was accused by No 10 of a series of damaging leaks, including text message exchanges between Mr Johnson and the entrepreneur Sir James Dyson, and hit back by accusing the PM of attempting to block an official leak inquiry because it could implicate a close friend of his fiancee Carrie Symonds.

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The so-called 'chatty rat' leak of plans for a second national coronavirus lockdown last year sparked fury in Downing Street, with the PM's former advisor thought by many to be the source.

In an incendiary blog post, Mr Cummings went on to say that Cabinet Secretary Mr Case had told Mr Johnson that neither he nor the then No10 director of communications Lee Cain was the culprit.

But Mr Case is expected to say his inquiry into the leak last autumn is still "live" and that he has not ruled out Mr Cummings as the culprit.

Officials familiar with the investigation said that it had neither "landed" on any one individual or exonerated anyone.

The disclosure is likely to further anger Mr Cummings, who released his onslaught after he was accused by No10 of a series of damaging leaks, including text message exchanges between Mr Johnson and Sir James Dyson where he offered to "fix" the entrepreneurs tax situation.

Ministers are now concerned at what he may say when he gives evidence to MPs investigating the Government's response to the pandemic next month.

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Mr Cummings is widely known to have been critical of Mr Johnson's delay in launching a second lockdown in England when cases began rising last autumn and there is speculation he will seek to blame him for the country currently having one of the highest death tolls in the world.

Meanwhile, Labour will focus on another of Mr Cummings' allegations as it attempts to force ministers to explain how Boris Johnson paid for the lavish refurbishment of his official Downing Street flat.

The opposition will ask Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to grant an urgent question requiring a minister to come to the House to respond to the charge that Mr Johnson plotted for Tory donors to secretly fund the work.

Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of attempting to shut down a leak inquiry
Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of attempting to shut down a leak inquiry. Picture: PA Images

Over the weekend, the International Trade Secretary Liz Truss insisted Mr Johnson had complied fully with the rules and had paid for the refurbishment, which reportedly ran to £200,000, out of his own pocket.

But during a round of broadcast interviews, she repeatedly refused to say whether the bill was initially settled by the Conservative Party or one of its donors - in which case it should have been declared as a loan under party funding rules.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said there was a "real stench" around the Government and she called for political regulator the Electoral Commission to launch a full inquiry.

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The commission, which first raised the issue with the Conservative Party more than a month ago, confirmed at the weekend it was still looking into whether any of the sums relating to the work on the flat should have been declared.

Last week, the Daily Mail published details of an email from Tory peer Lord Brownlow in which he said he was making a £58,000 donation to the party "to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed 'Downing Street Trust'".

To date, no such trust has been formed.

Mr Case, meanwhile, is also likely to face questions about alleged "Tory sleaze" and David Cameron's lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital, with pressure now on the Government to release all communications between ministers and businesses over coronavirus contracts and loans.

The PM insists, however, that the British public "don't give a monkey's" about the allegations.