Dominic Raab tapped to carry out Boris Johnson’s duties ‘where necessary’

London: Dominic Raab was given the task of leading the UK's response to the coronavirus crisis on Monday night after Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care.

Just hours after stating that the Prime Minister remained in charge of the Government, the Foreign Secretary was asked to take over "where necessary" in Johnson's absence.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves a meeting in Downing Street, London.Credit:PA

Speaking after the announcement, Raab reassured the public that ministers and officials were continuing to carry out instructions issued by the Prime Minister.

He added: "The Government's business will continue. The Prime Minister is in safe hands with that brilliant team at St Thomas's hospital, and the focus of the Government will continue to be on making sure that the Prime Minister's direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus and can pull the country through this challenge, will be taken forward.

"There's an incredibly strong team spirit behind the Prime Minister, making sure that we get all of the plans the Prime Minister's instructed us to deliver, to get them implemented as soon as possible.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves a meeting in Downing Street, London.Credit:PA

Leading the daily Downing Street press conference on Monday afternoon, Raab said that a team of ministers and Whitehall officials were working "full throttle" to carry out the instructions of Johnson from his hospital bed at St Thomas's, central London.

But when asked whether he had taken over Johnson's "security responsibilities" Raab declined to comment.

"We are getting on with all of the various strands of work to make sure at home and abroad we can defeat the virus and pull the country through coronavirus and the challenges that undoubtedly we're facing at the moment," Raab said.

Earlier, Raab said he had not spoken to the Prime minister since Saturday but it is understood the pair communicated shortly before Johnson was taken into the ICU when Johnson asked Raab to deputise.

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The UK's undefined chain of command stands in contrast to the United States, where it is set out in the constitution.

The powers and responsibilities of the US vice president are clearly defined, whereas in the UK the office of deputy prime minister has not been used since Nick Clegg entered into the coalition with David Cameron in 2010.

Even before the Prime Minister's admission to hospital, the confusion had already given rise to reports of infighting among Cabinet ministers, with allies of Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, suggesting that he was next in line.

As the coronavirus outbreak escalated, Downing Street foresaw the potential constitutional dilemma and began drawing up a "designated successor" plan" with Raab nominated as first recipient.

But even last night, the extent of his powers remained uncertain, with Dr Catherine Haddon, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, indicating that some powers could be distributed to a number of Cabinet ministers.

"The power would derive from the Prime Minister saying who he wants ministries to respond to," she told The Daily Telegraph. These could include authority over the UK's national security apparatus, such as control of the nuclear launch codes.

"Certainly in the Cold War and the years after, prime ministers would authorise nuclear deputies who were named Cabinet ministers, who in the event of something happening would then be called upon if the prime minister was in that moment unavailable.

"It's not so much like America where they have to carry the nuclear codes around, it's just making sure there is a chain of command if the Prime Minister were not available at that moment."

Dr Haddon also indicated that oversight of Britain's intelligence agencies could become a shared ministerial responsibility.

"MI5 reports to the Home Secretary, MI6 and GCHQ report to the Foreign Secretary, so there are still lines of communication," she said.

"The Prime Minister deals with them all directly and gets daily intelligence briefings, but so do other Cabinet ministers, who also have some degree of oversight powers. The Prime Minister is the ultimate authority, but that doesn't mean he's the only one he engages with them."

Telegraph, London

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