Boris Johnson under fresh pressure to sack Dominic Cummings after second lockdown trip claims
Dominic Cummings has denied he breached lockdown rules (PA)
Boris Johnson has come under further pressure to sack Dominic Cummings after he allegedly broke lockdown rules for a second time.
The Prime Minister is facing calls to hold a formal inquiry into the actions of his senior adviser following reports he flouted lockdown rules by making a second trip to his parent's home in Durham.
It came after several senior cabinet ministers defended Mr Cummings for making the 260-mile trip after his wife developed coronavirus, saying he was concerned he would not be able to look after his child if he also fell ill with the disease.
According to Downing Street, Mr Cummings believed he had acted "reasonably and legally" by making the trip, insisting he had remained self-isolated during the visit.
But those claims have come under doubt after the Sunday Mirror and the Observer reported Mr Cummings was spotted by witnesses near Barnard Castle, 30 miles from the city, during the period he claimed to have been fighting off the illness.
Meanwhile, a second source claimed they had seen Mr Cummings and his wife walking in Houghall Woods near Durham on 19 April, days after he had returned to London following his recovery from the illness.
But in a statement on Saturday evening, Number 10 branded the claims Mr Cummings made the second trip out of London as "false".
"Yesterday, the Mirror and Guardian wrote inaccurate stories about Mr Cummings," it said.
"Today they are writing more inaccurate stories including claims that Mr Cummings returned to Durham after returning to work in Downing Street on 14 April. We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers."
The reports have triggered calls from Labour and the SNP for a formal inquiry into his actions, and the response from Number 10.
In a letter to civil service chief Sir Mark Sedwill, Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said: "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."
She added: "The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for the Prime Minister's most senior adviser."
And in a second letter to Sir Mark, the SNP's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford called for an investigation into the "Tory Government's cover-up" of the trip.
"Boris Johnson must answer serious questions about his role in this incident and the cover-up - including when he found out, when he heard about the police action, why Mr Cummings wasn't sacked immediately, and why he kept the public in the dark for eight weeks until a newspaper broke the story," he wrote.
"Dominic Cummings' position is completely untenable."
Their demands came after a snap poll from YouGov which found that 68% of the public though Mr Cummings had broken the strict lockdown rules, while over half (52%) believed he should resign.
But despite the reports, Mr Johnson is believed to be fully behind his close adviser, with one source telling the Mail on Sunday he had "thrown a protective ring" around Mr Cummings.
According to the paper, the Prime Minister also told friends: "Dominic acted within the guidance and was simply caring for his family. I now consider the matter closed."
Meanwhile, Number 10 are facing further questions over their response after new statements from Durham police appear to contradict their claims that Mr Cummings was not contacted by officers over the trip.
In a statement on Saturday, Downing Street had hit back at reports Mr Cummings had been spoken to by officers about the guidelines on "self-isolation" saying: "At no stage was he or his family spoken to about this matter, as is being reported."
But in an unusual move, Durham Constabulary issued a further comment in which they named Mr Cummings, saying they had been contacted by his father during the visit to discuss "security issues".
They said: "Following a significant number of media inquiries over the weekend, Durham Constabulary can add the following detail.
"On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware that Dominic Cummings had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.
"At the request of Mr Cummings’ father, an officer made contact the following morning by telephone."
They added: "During that conversation, Mr Cummings’ father confirmed that his son had travelled with his family from London to the North East and was self-isolating in part of the property.
"Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required. However, the officer did provide advice in relation to security issues."
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