DOMINIC Cummings acted as prime minister “in all but name” – but the claim of a “puppet regime” has been rejected, the UK Covid Inquiry has heard.

Former chancellor Sajid Javid said there was an “unusual” decision-making structure in No 10 in early 2020 as he gave evidence.

He was asked by inquiry counsel Joanne Cecil about a line in his witness statement that said Cummings, who was chief adviser to Boris Johnson, “sought to act as a prime minister in all but name”.

He replied: “That’s how things seemed to be working at the time.”

Javid said it was not unusual for his private office to get a request from the prime minister’s office or No 10, but found a lot of the requests were not coming from Johnson “once probed”.

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“They might be anything from a request for information, request for detail, but also for policy change, or policy preference,” he added.

“On probing further, they would be coming from Mr Cummings.”

Javid said he would eventually see the prime minister and talk with him, both formally and informally, asking “I heard that you wanted this or you wanted that”, but Johnson “would sometimes just not even know that that request had come in his name”.

He cites an example of when he was working on the Budget in January and February 2020.

“I was getting a lot of requests relating to the budget, which on probing were coming directly from Mr Cummings and not the prime minister, and it’s not something I would have expected,” Javid (below) told the inquiry.

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“Although that was the first time I’d served as chancellor, I had been in the Treasury as both economic secretary and the financial secretary under George Osborne when he was chancellor. So, I had a bit of a sense about how I would have expected things to work and this was very unusual.”

He also said the “inexperienced” Cabinet at the start of the pandemic was designed to give Dominic Cummings power over decisions.

In a written statement to the inquiry, Javid said there was a goal at the time to “centralise power in Number 10 with a preference for loyalty over experience”.

Javid, who resigned as chancellor on February 13 2020, said the arrangements often excluded ministers from decision making.

He added: “It was clear that in Mr Cummings, the prime minister had picked someone that he had decided to, for whatever reason, to trust with a huge amount of responsibility and power.

“Many times I felt like many of the key decisions were being made by Mr Cummings and not the prime minister in a way that I had not seen with any other prime minister. That is something I had to work with.”

However later former deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab denied the claim that Johnson was not in charge of the government during the pandemic, telling the inquiry that the then-prime minister was content that his former chief adviser Cummings oversaw decision making.

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When asked if he agreed with this view, former deputy prime minister Raab said: “No, I don’t.

He added: “There is a whole circus that can be built up in the media and elsewhere around the internal battles between individuals and some of that is natural and healthy.”

Raab said he had “no beef” with Javid, but simply disagreed with the former health secretary’s position.

He added Cummings was “trying to galvanise direction of travel” in Government which was “much needed”.

Raab said it was also important for the prime minister to delegate responsibilities.

“I just don’t accept the characterisation that there was some sort of puppet regime,” he added.