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Dominic Cummings returns to parliament – the best bits

Dominic Cummings returns to parliament – the best bits
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Dominic Cummings today returned to face a select committee for the first time since his fiery clash with Andrew Tyrie five years ago. Cummings — who was found in contempt of parliament for refusing to appear in 2018 — is up this morning before the Science and Technology panel of MPs. It is the first time the former No. 10 adviser has made public comments about his time in Government since leaving Downing Street in November.

The subject of discussion is ARIA — the new £800 million Advanced Research and Invention Agency he championed in government which aims to fund 'high-risk, high-reward' inventions. MPs broadly stuck to the issue in hand, allowing Cummings to explain the successes of the US agency DARPA on which ARIA is based. Asked by Labour's Dawn Butler if he would stay involved in the project, Cummings confirmed: 'I won't be involved. I'm not seeking to be involved. I don't want to be involved.'

 

Butler also took the chance to raise the issue of Cummings's reported £45,000 pay rise after the coronavirus pandemic began. Cummings replied that when he started in No. 10 in summer 2019, he was put in the 'normal pay band' for his position of £140,000. But he claims he had been paid less while working on the Vote Leave campaign so asked to take a pay cut.

'I figured I should be paid for trying to sort out the Brexit mess as I was paid for doing Vote Leave so I asked for a pay cut.' He added that it then appeared 'as if I got a pay rise after Covid' when everyone was rehired after the election and he was moved onto the normal pay grade for his level.

Cummings has confirmed that the prime minister agreed a 'deal' in Mr Cummings's living room the Sunday before the results of the 2019 leadership were elected. He said he would take the job if Brexit got done, Whitehall was reformed and creating an 'ARPA-like entity' — to which Johnson agreed. 

Cummings launched a number of attacks on Whitehall, saying that the current system for scientific research is an 'expensive disaster zone' and that the lesson learned from an 'extremely bureaucratic process that struggled in crisis' is not to create more bureaucracy. 

He also took a pop at his old nemesis David Cameron — who once called Cummings a 'career psychopath' — for failing to properly fund research and development funding during his six years as premier. Steerpike is glad to see the controversies of the past five months haven't blunted the Brexit supremo...

As his final question, chairman Greg Clark whom Cummings once allegedly berated in a sweary phone call, asked if he had any regrets about leaving government. Cummings paused and then replied: 'I think I made the right decision to resign' and that he would be happy to return to answer any questions in the future on his time in government. Mr S is already marking it in his diary!

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk.

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