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Latest 04 July 2020

Update: Attorney General’s Conduct

You may recall that we wrote to the Attorney General’s Office and the Cabinet Office in May, asking for information about the tendering of legal advice by the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, in relation to Dominic Cummings’ excursions/eyesight test in and around Durham during the COVID-19 lockdown.

With apparent disregard for the constitutional independence of her office, Braverman had tweeted in support of the Prime Minister’s special adviser, sharing a statement from Downing Street that said Cummings had acted “reasonably and legally” in travelling from London to Durham despite the Government’s own restrictions on travel. According to the Daily Telegraph, she had also advised the Cabinet that “no laws have been broken” and had said that the Cabinet should back Cummings. 

We cannot understand how Braverman could properly have given that advice, and we believe it is of vital importance – to preserve the integrity of her office, the integrity of the rule of law – that we find out. But we have now heard back from the Attorney General’s Office and the Cabinet Office, with almost identical responses, refusing to disclose any of the requested information on the basis that it would not be in the public interest to do so. 

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Instead, they have said that it is more important that Law Officers, such as the Attorney General, can continue to offer legal advice “without fear of any adverse inferences being drawn from either the content of the advice or the fact that it was sought.” They say this, remarkably, despite the fact that Ms Braverman herself published her views on the law.

Her decision to publish her views was, we have little doubt, a dangerous politicisation of her function as chief legal adviser to the Crown. As we know from the advice given by her predecessor to Tony Blair before the Iraq War, this carries profound risks. We  have instructed Robin Hopkins, a leading specialist in information law, to appeal the decisions of the AGO and Cabinet Office not to provide any of the requested information, and will keep you updated. 

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