Jenrick tells LBC: PM acted 'in best interests of the country' after Cummings' evidence

27 May 2021, 08:37 | Updated: 27 May 2021, 09:33

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson was acting in the UK's best interests and worked "day and night" as the coronavirus outbreak began, a Government minister has insisted.

Speaking to LBC in the wake of Dominic Cummings' explosive testimony to MPs on Wednesday, when he claimed tens of thousands of people needlessly died due to the Government's response, Robert Jenrick said Mr Johnson had apologised for Covid deaths.

The Communities Secretary said the Prime Minister had responded to some of ex-adviser Mr Cummings' claims at Prime Minister's Questions.

"He said then he was deeply sorry for the loss of life, that he wished he could have done even more to support the country through that time but that at every turn he was acting in the best interests of the country as he saw it and I thought that was a very fair statement," Mr Jenrick told LBC's Nick Ferrari.

"Entirely reflects the Prime Minister I know and saw in those early weeks and months of the pandemic."

Among a series of explosive statements in his Commons committee appearance, Mr Cummings blasted Mr Johnson as "unfit for the job" and characterised the Government as lions being led by donkeys.

Read more: Dominic Cummings says Boris Johnson was 'unfit' for the job

Read more: The key quotes from Boris Johnson's ex-adviser

But Mr Jenrick insisted his memory of Mr Johnson's response was that he was focused on tackling "an unprecedented pandemic, who worked day and night who himself almost died as a result of the pandemic".

The people in Government he worked with were extremely capable and got many things right, but under huge pressure, the minister said.

He also claimed he worked well with Mr Cummings, who "tried his best in Number 10".

But he added: "I never think it's fruitful to get into tit for tat… but there will come a time next year in the public inquiry where all of us who have been involved in this will lay out events as clearly and honestly as we can."

During his testimony, Mr Cummings repeatedly savaged Health Secretary Matt Hancock, saying he could have been sacked for a number of reasons and lied repeatedly.

Mr Jenrick insisted Mr Hancock, who is due to speak in Parliament on Thursday morning, had refuted allegations.

He insisted the Department of Health worked hard and that when some aspects of the early strategy against coronavirus were realised to be ineffective, the plan was changed.