Vote Leave boss ordered to appear before MPs
Motion last used in 1920 means Dominic Cummings risks being held in ‘contempt of parliament’ if he fails to show
The former boss of the Vote Leave campaign has been ordered to appear before a committee of MPs at risk of being held in contempt of Parliament.
Cummings, dubbed the brains behind Brexit who is set to be portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a forthcoming Channel 4 drama, has repeatedly refused to appear before the media select committee to answer questions around the use of Facebook data during the Brexit referendum.
Now MPs haven taken the rare step of accusing him of “holding Parliament in contempt” by snubbing the request and voted to order him to appear before the committee on or before 20 June.
It is thought to be the first motion of its kind to pass through Parliament since 1920, and has been described by The Independent as “a rare show of parliamentary strength”.
It is unclear what happens if he refuses to show up. Theoretically he could be arrested and fined if he flouts the motion, “but the sanction is rarely used and is a symbolic slap on the wrist”, says the Daily Mail.
“In their darker imaginings, the Commons authorities fear a situation where the Serjeant at Arms is dispatched to fetch a reluctant witness,” says BBC parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy “only to become embroiled in an embarrassing, and probably televised stand-off”.
However, “it is far from clear that the Serjeant has powers to enter private property, still less to put Mr Cummings in an arm lock and frogmarch him to Westminster”, he says.
More importantly, the Independent says this row could also set an “interesting precedent” as the committee has unsuccessfully tried to compel Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence.