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Thu, 9 July 2020

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Dominic Cummings row: Matt Hancock says government will ‘look at’ fines imposed if lockdown breached for childcare

Dominic Cummings row: Matt Hancock says government will ‘look at’ fines imposed if lockdown breached for childcare

Matt Hancock hinted that some lockdown fines could be reviewed

3 min read

Matt Hancock has said he will ask the Treasury to “look at” fines issued for breaking lockdown rules where the breach was on childcare grounds, in the wake of a major row over Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, 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”.

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.”

There have been growing calls for Mr Cummings to resign from his post after reports surfaced over the weekend that he had left London at the height of lockdown.

The PM’s adviser made an unprecedented public statement on the matter yesterday, in which he said he believes he acted “legally and reasonably” when he and his wife travelled more than 250 miles from London to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown, amid fears they could be left without childcare for their four-year old son.

But dozens of Conservative MPs have now broken ranks to condemn Mr Cummings, with many calling for his resignation.

On Tuesday, junior minister Douglas Ross resigned in protest over row, while Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said Mr Cummings should “consider his position”. 

When pressed by reporters on whether Mr Cummings’ continued place in the Government would undermine public confidence, Mr Hancock stood firm in his defence of the PM’s adviser. 

“Mr Cummings has set out all of the details in quite extensive detail yesterday. And then invited questions on it,” he stated. 

“My view is that what he did was within the guidelines. I can understand why reasonable people can take a different view. 

“But my judgement, which is the same as the Prime Minister's judgement, is that what Mr Cummings did was within the guidelines. 

“After all, the guidelines allow for exceptional circumstances, particularly with regard to childcare. And we’ve stated before that if you’re unable to look after a small child that is an exceptional circumstance.”

The Cabinet minister added: “Of course I understand the anger that some people feel and I regret the anger that some people feel. 

“Mr Cummings himself said that with hindsight he should have got all these facts out earlier - what I say is that it’s incredibly important that as a country we focus on what we need to do now. 

“And I’ve said this repeatedly through this crisis. You’ve got to wake up every day and work out what is the best thing to do next. ”

Responding to Mr Hancock's hint at a review of fines, 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. "


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