DOMINIC Cummings boast to have been cleared from leaking lockdown secrets was not backed up by Britain’s top civil servant – but the culprit may never be found.
Hauled before MPs to explain the latest in the hunt for the so-called “chatty rat” who “bounced” Boris Johnson into last November’s shutdown, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case warned today that it may not be possible to “successfully identify the source or sources”.
But the top mandarin enraged the Commons committee by refusing to give further details of the top secret probe in an evidence session branded “a badly scripted version of Yes, Minister!”
The head of the civil service all but confirmed the security services had been brought into probe the leak, but he admitted no criminal activity or breach of the Official Secrets Act had taken place.
But he hinted the methods used to catch the ‘Chatty Rat’ were top secret spy craft, telling the committee he was “under restraints related to classification.”
Sacked Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings claimed in his incendiary “Nuclear Dom” blogpost last week that Mr Case had told him last year that he was not a suspect for the leak.
Boris Johnson ordered the probe after becoming enraged at efforts to “bounce” him into backing the lockdown by making the plan public late last October.
But speaking before the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs in a painful evidence session, Mr Case declined to back up that version of events.
Mr Cummings also accused Mr Johnson of wanting to shelve the probe as one of the suspects was an aide who is a close pal of his fiancee Carrie Symonds.
But Mr Case insisted: "at no point has this investigation been in any way de-prioritised, it is in the hands of professional investigators who have a range of tools and techniques at their disposal".
But he acknowledged a "sense of frustration" that "we are unable to catch more people responsible for leaks".
Asked if he accepted what was said in Mr Cummings' blog, Mr Case would only say: "I am constrained in what I can say because it's in the context of an ongoing investigation."
Probed by Tory MP David Jones if he had authorised Downing Street to tell the media that neither Mr Cummings nor then communications director Lee Cain were the leakers, Mr Case said: "I am not trying to frustrate, but this is drawing me into details of an ongoing investigation which – for reasons I have set out – I can't go into in this setting."
He said Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was being updated on the investigation in secret, under Privy Council terms.
Committee chairman William Wragg suggested that "relatively few" people would have known the information leaked in October "so it's a rather small pool in which to fish" in order to find the culprit behind the leak of the lockdown.
Mr Case said: "I'm not trying to frustrate you or other members of the committee on this but we are going here into the details of the investigation and who knew what and this is an area where I am constrained because if I go further on this it will start to reveal the details of the investigation."
But angry MPs on the Committee accused Case of stonewalling, comparing it to satire.
Labour’s John McDonnell said: "I don't want to be rude Mr Case but this is coming across as a badly scripted version of 'Yes, Minister'."
And Tory Mr Wragg hit out: “Mr Case you have known you are coming to this committee for a number of weeks now and there are a number of topical issues… I am surprised you have not been better furnished with the answers to give to the committee.”
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