Tory MPs say Dominic Cummings could drive ‘coach and horses’ through UK defence policy without proper scrutiny

PUBLISHED: 12:42 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:46 18 August 2020

Dominic Cummings heads to Downing Street. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA.

Dominic Cummings heads to Downing Street. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A group of Tory MPs say that without proper scrutiny, Dominic Cummings could drive a “coach and horses” through the UK’s defence policy when he launches a major inquiry into how the sector.

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Senior Tories have called on Cummings to submit to questioning over his role in a major review of the UK’s defence capabilities.

Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons select committee on defence and was once a minister of the department, said Cummings should not be allowed to drive a “coach and horses through our defence architecture”.

Defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood said Dominic Cummings had 'questions to answer' over his involvement in a major review of Britain's defence capabilities. Picture: Sky NewsDefence committee chair Tobias Ellwood said Dominic Cummings had 'questions to answer' over his involvement in a major review of Britain's defence capabilities. Picture: Sky News

The prime minister’s top aide was granted access to tour classified sites including MI5, MI6 and the SAS in July ahead of a review.

Ellwood and other MPs on the committee are now calling on Cummings to explain his role in the Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development, as well as explain who will be leading it.

The Telegraph reported that Cummings has been invited to give evidence to the Defence Select Committee on the issue twice.

He declined the first invitation and is yet to respond to the second.

Ellwood told the newspaper: “It’s unclear what his role is and yet he’s happy to let it be known he is visiting clandestine agencies.

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“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?”

He said there must be “proper scrutiny and transparency” of the review in order to prevent “someone with the mindset of Dominic Cummings running a coach and horses through our defence architecture”.

The former defence minister said he was concerned Cummings’ role in the review was “far greater... than anyone anticipated”.

Those sentiments were echoed by fellow Tory MP Bob Seely who sits on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

He said: “I don’t know who is leading the review. It would be good to have a named individual who oversees the contributions, and who can talk publicly about it.”

It emerged Cummings toured Britain’s defence establishment in July amid claims that he was determined to “sort out” procurement and organisational issues.

MORE: Mark Francois tells Britain’s top general: ‘Cummings is going to come and sort you out’

A memo leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald showed Cummings was set to visit the headquarters of the Special Boat Service, the SAS, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Rapid Capabilities Office, and the defence intelligence unit.

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