Chatty rat inquiry ‘probably won’t identify source of leaks’, cabinet secretary admits

Tom Ambrose
·3-min read
<p>Despite the expectation that the leak inquiry will be unsuccessful, Simon Case said it should be complete within “weeks”</p> (PA)

Despite the expectation that the leak inquiry will be unsuccessful, Simon Case said it should be complete within “weeks”

(PA)

An inquiry into the so-called “chatty rat” lockdown leak probably will not find a culprit, the Cabinet Secretary has told MPs.

Simon Case told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Monday the fact it remains ongoing gives a “clear indication that the source or sources haven't been identified”.

Giving evidence to a powerful committee, Mr Case said the probe into who revealed plans for a second lockdown in October was “complex”.

But he did not back up Dominic Cummings’s claims that he had been cleared over involvement in the leak.

He said: "I hope the committee will understand I'm very constrained in what I can say given the security classification of the exercise, of the leak inquiry.

“What I can say is the investigation is ongoing and this is a clear indication that the source or sources haven't been identified.

“In the time that has now passed, I think it is probable that the team will not successfully identify the source or sources but work is ongoing.”

But despite the expectation that the leak inquiry will be unsuccessful, he said it should be finished within “weeks”.

“I hope weeks rather than months,” he told ministers.

Pressed further to give a more specific timescale, he said: “These investigations are complex, different strands to pursue, but I think it will not be long now before the House can hear of the conclusions.”

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell criticised Mr Case’s handling of the inquiry, saying the fact it has been five months since it started shows it is “hardly a demonstration of priority of what should be a serious matter”.

He asked Mr Case if he would be launching an investigation into a story in the Daily Mail in which a source claimed the Prime Minister said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown.

Mr Case replied: “This isn’t something I’ve looked at today, an investigation hasn’t started.

“That’s something I’ll have to take away and look into, discuss with PM about whether it’s something we need to conduct an investigation into.”

He added that he has the authority to launch an inquiry, regardless of Mr Johnson’s view of the matter.

Due to Mr Case’s evasiveness of his questions, an exasperated Mr McDonnell added: “I don’t mean to be rude but this is coming across as a badly scripted version of ‘Yes, Minister’.”

Mr Johnson earlier denied making the “bodies pile high” comment.

The remarks were reportedly made after the Prime Minister agreed to a second lockdown, and suggest Mr Johnson was prepared to face a mounting death toll rather than order a third set of tough restrictions, something he was eventually forced to do.

The decision on the second lockdown was leaked and is the subject of an inquiry to find the so-called “chatty rat” who tipped off the press.

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