Cabinet Office explored possible GDPR breach in bid to keep Cummings quiet, report claims

Written by Jim Dunton and Sam Trendall on 2 July 2021 in News
News

Story in the Financial Times claims that department also investigated whether former adviser could be silenced in relation to breaches of contract or contravention of Official Secrets Act

Credit: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

The Cabinet Office is actively investigating ways to stop Dominic Cummings from publishing further damaging information about his time in government – including examining whether he may have breached data-protection laws – but will not resort to the courts, according to reports.

Recent revelations from the former chief adviser to prime minister Boris Johnson have included WhatsApp transcripts suggesting the PM believed former health secretary Matt Hancock was “f***ing hopeless”.

Cummings’ unprecedented evidence to the joint Science and Technology Select Committee and Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic also gave explosive insight on how the developing crisis was handled.

The Financial Times reported that four unnamed senior officials had told it that the Cabinet Office had explored what action could be taken against Cummings (pictured above with a police officer), who left government at the end of last year, with a view to stopping the release of further damaging information.


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It said lines of inquiry included whether he had potentially breached his employment contract as a special adviser, the civil service code, General Data Protection Regulation legislation or the Official Secrets Act.

The last of these was reported by the FT to be the “only serious tool” government might have in any attempt to silence Cummings. The possibility of pursuing the former adviser for a potential breach of GDPR was compared to authorities going after Al Capone for tax evasion – the only crime of which the notorious gangster was ever convicted.

The FT said one well-placed civil servant had told it that conversations on how to deal with Cummings remained “active”, but another appeared to suggest that direct legal action had been ruled out.

The paper said one senior government figure acknowledged that trying to silence Cummings could be counterproductive.

“We could bring the whole force of the state down to bear on him, but where could that lead?” they said. “There is a strong body of thought that he would like to be in court and could reveal a load more damaging stuff under oath.”

The Cabinet Office told the FT that "it would be inappropriate to comment on individual staff matters”.

Cummings tweeted a list of questions asked by report co-author George Parker, who is political editor of the FT. He did not answer them.

 

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