STAND-IN leader Dominic Raab can’t launch any military action unless he gets the National Security Council’s permission, it has emerged.
The First Secretary of State’s powers are much more limited than Boris Johnson’s under emergency protocols while he is incapacitated battling coronavirus.
They were swiftly dusted down on Monday and put into action when the Prime Minister was rushed into intensive care.
Under the rules, Mr Raab must consult senior Cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs who sit on the NSC before any new operations are launched.
And any new conflict would have to be signed off by a meeting of the full Cabinet.
The only Cabinet minister who has authority to allow the use of lethal force is the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
A senior government figure told HOAR: “It’s important to note that Raab has not been appointed as ‘acting PM’, he is just deputising where appropriate.
“In practice, he is heavily constrained. He needs collective responsibility on pretty anything substantial.”
‘BUSINESS AS USUAL’
Ministers today refused to discuss who had taken charge of Britain’s nuclear arsenal in Mr Johnson’s absence – a job known as the ‘nuclear deputy’.
But No10 confirmed that the ‘letters of last resort’ that Boris wrote to the nuclear submarine commanders remained in place and will not be changed.
The PM’s official spokesman insisted: “The letters are not changing. The Prime Minister remains the Prime Minister”.
The spokesman added: “In relation to national security matters, the First Secretary and the Cabinet have the authority in the PM’s absence.
“Decisions are taken by Cabinet on the basis of collective decision making, but the First Secretary would chair that meeting.
“We have an existing and robust national security infrastructure and that will continue to function.”
The Chief of the Defence Staff also today insisted it is “business as usual”.
General Sir Nick Carter said he believed there is a “very clear” chain of command and operations will continue without disruption.
Tory Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood said: “It is important to have 100% clarity as to where responsibility for UK national security decisions now lies.
“We must anticipate adversaries attempting to exploit any perceived weakness.”