Labour says 'the British public deserve answers on Dominic Cummings’ behaviour'

23 May 2020, 16:54 | Updated: 24 May 2020, 21:25

Labour have called for an urgent inquiry into Dominic Cummings' lockdown journey
Labour have called for an urgent inquiry into Dominic Cummings' lockdown journey. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Labour Party has said that the British public "deserves answers on Dominic Cummings' behaviour" and has called for an explanation at today's press conference.

In a tweet, the Labour Party said: "The Prime Minister needs to come to the press conference this afternoon and explain what happened.

"There cannot be one rule for Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser and another for the rest of us."

The Labour Party has also called for an urgent inquiry into allegations that Dominic Cummings broke coronavirus lockdown measures.

It comes after Boris Johnson's senior advisor said it was "reasonable and legal" to travel during the coronavirus lockdown to stay with his parents.

Mr Cummings was spotted in Durham - almost 300 miles away from his London home - despite having had symptoms of coronavirus, a joint investigation by the Mirror and The Guardian revealed.

He was spoken to five days after the Government issued guidance which said: “You should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home.”

A member of the public is understood to have seen him and made a complaint to the police.

In a post on Twitter, a party spokesperson wrote: "Labour has written to the Cabinet Secretary calling for an urgent inquiry into allegations Dominic Cummings broke the coronavirus lockdown rules.

"The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another for government advisers."

In a letter attached to the post, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves MP requested the Cabinet Office "launch an urgent investigation into allegations Dominic Cummings broke the coronavirus lockdown rules."

It read: "The British people have made important and painful sacrifices to support the national effort, including being away from family in times of need.

"It is therefore vital that the Government can reassure the public that its most senior figures have been adhering to the same rules as everyone else."

Read more: Who is Boris Johnson's senior advisor Dominic Cummings?

A No 10 spokesperson earlier on Saturday said it was "essential" that the prime minister's senior adviser could travel to "ensure his young child could be properly cared for."

"His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside," the spokesperson said.

"At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally."

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Ms Reeves responded to the claim that it was "essential" for Mr Cummings to make the journey, saying the prime minister himself advised Brits on 16 March to "stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel."

She added that on 23 March people were instructed to stay at home except for certain "very limited purposes" which was enshrined in law on 26 March.

The MP for Leeds West then explained the government's guidance for people experiencing Covid-19 symptoms at the time was to stay at home for seven days and if you live with someone who has symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started.

"The actions of Dominic Cummings would appear to be inconsistent with official advice," she added.

Ms Reeves said the claim that the police had not got involved "directly contradicts the statement from Durham Constabulary" which confirmed that officers "were made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city."

She noted the Code of Conduct for Special advisers, which says they must "comply with the law and uphold the administration of justice."

The MP argued that political figures "play a critical role in ensuring the British public continue to have confidence in the Government's approach to tackling the current crisis" and that Mr Cummings' actions "undermine" the collective effort to beat coronavirus.

"The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for the Prime Minister's most senior adviser."

When questioned by reporters outside his home, Mr Cummings said he "behaved reasonably and legally" and when asked if his trip to Durham during lockdown looked good, he said: "Who cares about good looks. It's a question of doing the right thing. It's not about what you guys think."

Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove has also spoken out on behalf of Mr Cummings, tweeting: "Caring for your wife and child is not a crime."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, responding to the Number 10 statement looking to explain Dominic Cummings' reason for travelling during the lockdown, said an explanation had now been provided.

He tweeted: "It's reasonable and fair to ask for an explanation on this.

"And it has been provided: two parents with coronavirus, were anxiously taking care of their young child.

"Those now seeking to politicise it should take a long hard look in the mirror."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted: "Taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable, trying to score political points over it isn't."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: "I know how ill coronavirus makes you.

"It was entirely right for Dom Cummings to find childcare for his toddler, when both he and his wife were getting ill."

A snap YouGov poll on Saturday found that the majority of Brits believe DominicCummings broke lockdown rules and should resign.

68 per cent of people believed he broke the rules, 52 per cent think that he should resign, while 41 per cent of Conservative voters believe he should resign.

In comparison, 18 per cent of people said he did not break lockdown rules, while 28 per cent said he should not resign.

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