Asked if Dominic Raab, Mr Johnson’s de-facto deputy, had the power, Mr Gove replied: “I simply can’t talk about national security matters” – as he argued key decisions would be made “collectively”.
But Mr Ellwood, the defence minister until 2019, tweeted: “It is important to have 100 per cent clarity as to where responsibility for UK national security now lies.
“We must anticipate adversaries attempting to exploit any perceived weakness.”
Mr Ellwood – a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets – was reacting to Mr Gove’s morning interviews, in which he gave an update on the prime minister’s condition, in intensive care with coronavirus.
“The prime minister always remains the prime minister,” the cabinet office minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, adding that the cabinet would take crucial decisions by consensus.
Asked where power lay if the UK suffered a nuclear attack, Mr Gove said: “I simply can’t talk about national security matters. There are well developed protocols which are in place and which have been tested robustly over time.”