Nick Thomas-Symonds – 2020 Speech About David Frost

Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen, in the House of Commons on 30 June 2020.

I am grateful at least to the Cabinet Office Minister for turning up on behalf of the Home Secretary. I am also grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

After Sir Mark Sedwill’s letter on his departure—and I thank him for his work—No. 10 put out a press release indicating that the Prime Minister had appointed David Frost, currently the Prime Minister’s European adviser and chief negotiator with the EU, as the new National Security Adviser. The first duty of any Government is to keep people safe, and in carrying out that duty any Government should have objective, and at times challenging, advice from their National Security Adviser. That is why making a political appointment takes this Government into such dangerous territory.

Independent, impartial, specialist advice on national security is crucial. Prime Ministers come and go, but security threats remain and evolve. Can the Cabinet Office Minister give one good reason why this is a political appointment? Can he tell us to whom ultimately the new National Security Adviser is accountable, and if he will be subject to the code of conduct for special advisers in this new special envoy status that seems to be being bestowed upon him? Was the Civil Service Commission involved in this appointment, and if so can the Minister outline what the commission ruled? Have the intelligence agencies and the wider intelligence and security community been consulted on this being a political appointee? And at such a crucial time in our trade negotiations with the EU, how will Mr Frost’s additional responsibilities impact upon him being able to achieve the best outcome for the United Kingdom by the end of the year, as the Government have promised?

Also very worrying is the wider issue of a lobby briefing from February that No. 10 had a hit list of several permanent secretaries that it wanted to push out. Our civil service and our civil servants are world-leading and we should be proud of the extraordinary work they do. Weak Prime Ministers take advice only from those who agree with them; those who put the national interest first should welcome different views and welcome challenge. So can Cabinet Office Minister tell us, quite simply: what is the Prime Minister so afraid of, and why will he not put his duty to keep people safe first?