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Heavy criticism for Brexiteers in MPs’ report into fake news

Heavy criticism for Brexiteers in MPs’ report into fake news

A key figure in the Brexit campaign who refused to give evidence to the fake news probe declared “f*** the charlatans” as he posted its findings online two days ahead of its publication date.

Dominic Cummings repeatedly defied MPs’ demands to give evidence to the inquiry and accused them of “grandstanding”.

The former Vote Leave director underlined his disdain for the work of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee by breaking the embargo when it gave out advance copies with the instruction they must not be published before Sunday.

In a message posted on Twitter by ITV’s political editor Robert Peston, Mr Cummings said: “Ive published the DCMS report on my blog, f*** the charlatans embargo.”

MPs criticised Mr Cummings in the report for refusing their requests to appear before them and an official summons.

They have referred him to the Committee of Privileges, which could hold him in contempt of Parliament.

The DCMS report states: “Mr Cummings’ contemptuous behaviour is unprecedented in the history of this committee’s inquiries and underlines concerns about the difficulties of enforcing co-operation with Parliamentary scrutiny in the modern age.”

Mr Cummings was just one of a number of figures who were heavily criticised in the report.

MPs attacked Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore, the main players in the Leave.EU referendum campaign, on a range of issues.

They said allegations being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office that the group used insurance data from companies owned by donor Mr Banks were “extremely serious”.

The committee also looked into claims about Mr Banks’s meetings with Russian officials, including ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko, to discuss gold and diamond acquisitions, the passing of confidential documents, and the exchange of information about the EU referendum.

Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore misled the committee on the number of meetings that took place with the Russian embassy and walked out of its evidence session to avoid scrutiny about the content of the meetings, the committee said.

The report states: “Mr Banks seemed to want to hide the extent of his contacts with Russia, while his spokesman Andy Wigmore’s statements have been unreliable – by his own admission – and cannot be taken at face value.

“Mr Wigmore is a self-confessed liar and, as a result, little significance can be attached to anything that he says.

“It is unclear whether Mr Banks profited from business deals arising from meetings arranged by Russian officials. We understand that the National Crime Agency (NCA) is investigating these matters.”

It said Mr Banks is believed to be the largest individual donor in UK political history, handing over a reported £8.4 million.

The committee said it is unclear where the money for Mr Banks’s donations came from.

“He failed to satisfy us that his own donations had, in fact, come from sources within the UK,” it said.

MPs also rounded on Alexander Nix, former chief executive officer at Cambridge Analytica, the company at the heart of the data scandal.

They said he was “evasive” at both hearings and the “standard of his answers fell well below those expected from a CEO of an organisation” and he “misled” them in certain areas.

And they again called on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the committee to “answer the many outstanding questions to which Facebook has not responded adequately”.

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