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Thu, 9 July 2020

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Dominic Cummings row: Labour accuses government of ‘flip flopping’ amid confusion over lockdown fines review

Dominic Cummings row: Labour accuses government of ‘flip flopping’ amid confusion over lockdown fines review

Matt Hancock told a member of the public that he would ‘look at’ the issue.

3 min read

Labour has accused ministers of “flip-flopping” over lockdown fines, after the Government made clear there would be no review of lockdown fines despite Matt Hancock saying the issue would be “looked at”.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Government’s strategy was “descending in to chaos” after sources moved to shut down a suggestion that fines imposed during the lockdown may be looked at if childcare needs were cited.

The hint came amid a growing row over Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings, who travelled from London to Durham during lockdown to seek childcare for his four-year-old son.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing on Tuesday, Matt Hancock was asked by a member of the public whether the Government would now “review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown”. 

Mr Hancock responded: “It’s a very good question and we do understand the impact and the need for making sure that children get adequate childcare.

“That is one of the significant concerns that we’ve had all the way through this.”

He added that the question by Martin, from Brighton, who was visibly wearing a clerical collar, was “perfectly reasonable”, especially as it was asked by a “man of the cloth”.

"It’s now been made incredibly difficult to police vital public health guidance, as this flip-flop over fines shows" - Nick Thomas-Symonds

The Health Secretary added: “I’ll have to talk to my Treasury colleagues before I can answer it in full. 

“We’ll look at it. And if I can get your details I’ll make sure we write to you with a full answer and make an announcement from this podium.

"I think we can make that commitment.”

But government sources later indicated that there had been no change in policy and that Mr Hancock had been promising to direct the question to the relevant Whitehall department.

Seizing on that, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “The attempts from the Prime Minister to defend the indefensible actions of his most senior adviser are quickly descending in to chaos and seriously undermining trust.
 
“It’s now been made incredibly difficult to police vital public health guidance, as this flip-flop over fines shows. 

“The reality is it’s one rule for the most powerful people in Government and another for the rest of us, which is incredibly dangerous.”

Speaking earlier, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader Kirsty Blackman said: "We've all been obeying these rules for months while the Prime Minister's most senior adviser has openly flouted them - and has shown no contrition whatsoever."

She added: "Now, staggeringly, the Tory Health Secretary is attempting to rewrite the rules to suit Mr Cummings - it's farcical and no one is taking the government seriously. This isn't 'Dom's Law' - there cannot be one rule for the Tory elite and another for the rest of us. "  

Read the most recent article written by Matt Honeycombe-Foster and Eleanor Langford - Boris Johnson denies ‘lost week’ in imposing Leicester lockdown amid PMQs clash with Keir Starmer

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