The previous head of the civil service has acknowledged that the UK authorities’s efforts to implement coronavirus lockdown restrictions had been undermined by Dominic Cummings’ journey to Nation Durham on the top of the primary wave of the pandemic.
Whereas Boris Johnson mentioned his chief aide had acted “moderately” when he drove to County Durham after his spouse developed Covid signs, Lord Sedwill mentioned it was a “mistake”.
“It was clearly a troublesome second for the federal government. It was a mistake – whether or not everybody ought to give up each time they make a mistake, I don’t assume is correct.
“Nevertheless it clearly undermined the federal government’s coherent narrative about individuals following the foundations.”
Sedwill, who stood down final month as cupboard secretary, additionally mentioned there have been “authentic” questions on Whitehall’s preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak.
Nonetheless, he mentioned a number of the criticism had been misplaced and that off-the-briefings assaults on its efficiency had been “damaging” to good governance.
Sedwill, who was appointed to the publish beneath Theresa Might, stepped down after reportedly clashing with Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser. He was one in all quite a lot of senior officers to depart within the months after Johnson grew to become prime minister final 12 months.
Chatting with the BBC, he rejected recommendations that their departures had been a part of a marketing campaign to eliminate officers ministers didn’t like, saying the scenario was “extra complicated”.
“Governments need individuals they’ve confidence in, after all,” he mentioned. “We undergo intervals of this type when there’s perceived to be an assault on the underlying values of the civil service, however truly, these values and the establishments serving governments with impartiality have all the time prevailed and I’m assured they are going to proceed to take action.”
Nonetheless, he mentioned that assaults within the press on senior officers over Brexit and different points had been “disagreeable” and damaging.
“It’s damaging to good governance and people accountable ought to recognise the harm they’re doing, even when they’re indulging themselves in some short-term tactical ploy,” he mentioned.
Sedwill mentioned it will be for a future inquiry to find out whether or not the lockdown in March was imposed rapidly sufficient and whether or not the state had the precise capabilities to cope with a pandemic.
“Though we had exercised and ready for pandemic threats, we didn’t have in place the precise measures, and we hadn’t rehearsed the precise measures,” he mentioned.
“I feel there’s a real query about whether or not we may have been higher ready within the first place and that’s clearly a really authentic problem.”