Dominic Cummings has ‘full support’ of Boris Johnson as Labour demands inquiry into Durham lockdown trip
A close friend of Mr Cummings has described the story as ‘fake news’.
Boris Johnson has given Dominic Cummings his “full support” amid a growing row over the top Number 10 aide’s decision to travel 250 miles to Durham during the strict nationwide lockdown.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the daily Downing Street press conference that the Prime Minister backed Mr Cummings in trying to “do the right thing” by his family, as Labour demanded an “urgent” investigation.
Downing Street has said Mr Cummings - whose wife had suspected coronavirus - made the trip to be with family and “ensure his young child could be properly cared for”.
And Number 10 on Saturday flatly rejected reports in both The Mirror and The Guardian, backed up by a statement from Durham Police, that officers had spoken to members of Mr Cummings’ family about the 264-mile journey, following an approach from a concerned neighbour in early April.
Number 10 said of the aide: “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.
“At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”
Speaking at the Number 10 press conference, Mr Shapps said: “I think for everybody who’s lost loved ones, everybody who’s been impacted by this crisis - everyone has done their best to try to do the right thing.”
And he added: “I won’t repeat the guidance again - but it does essentially, interpret it as taking practical steps to ensure that you follow the measures as best as possible in order to prevent - for example, in this case, a four-year old child from ending up without having the necessary support that a four-year old would quite possibly require.
“So that was the decision taken in that situation.
“And look: I understand what you’re saying. I get what you’re saying. Mr Cummings is in the public eye but the reality of the matter is that a four-year old child’s welfare I think is the important thing.
“Parents will ask themselves what they would do if they had no other support around.”
Pressed on why Mr Cummings had made the journey and not sought support closer to home, Mr Shapps said: “The simple answer is: that’s where the family was, that’s where the sister was.
“And the niece. So you know, as we all do in moments of crisis, we always seek to have our family, those who can assist us around us.”
And he added: “You have to get yourself locked down and do that in the best and most practical way.
“And I think that will be different for different people under whatever circumstances - their particular family differences - happen to dictate.
“That’s all that’s happened in this case. He was there, he stayed there.”
Mr Shapps was also asked when the Prime Minister knew his senior adviser had made the journey across the country.
He replied: “I don’t know, exactly the answer to when the PM knew.
“But I know the PM knew that he was unwell and that he was locked down.
“Of course the PM was also unwell in the same period in reference.”
But he added: “I can tell you the PM provides Mr Cummings with his full support and Mr Cummings’ has provided a full statement.”
Appearing alongside Mr Shapps, deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said the public health advice was to “take yourself out of society as soon as you have symptoms, stay at home, stay at home with your family”.
But she added: “All of the guidance has a common sense element to it which includes safeguarding around adults or children.”
LABOUR DEMANDS INVESTIGATION
Labour on Saturday evening sent a four-page letter to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, calling on the Cabinet Office to “launch an urgent investigation into allegations Dominic Cummings broke the coronavirus lockdown rules”.
Writing to the top civil servant, 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.”
The party has sent ten questions to the Government, including asking when the Prime Minister was first made aware of Cummings’ illness; when he first learned Mr Cummings had travelled Durham; whether the move was approved by Mr Johnson; and whether Mr Johnson sought any advice from government on the decision.
And she asked: “Why did Number 10’s official spokesperson tell journalists that Dominic Cummings was ‘at home on 31 March, the same day Durham police were made aware he was in Durham.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has meanwhile penned his own letter to Sir Mark demanding an investigation - and said the Prime Minister should “personally ensure that if he [Dominic Cummings] has broken the lockdown guidelines you will terminate his contract as your Senior Adviser”.