Michael Gove backs Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after Royal train tour criticism

9 December 2020, 09:03

By Megan White

Michael Gove has backed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after they were criticised for their Royal train tour during the Covid pandemic.

William and Kate undertook a three-day whistlestop tour of the country to meet emergency workers who had helped fight coronavirus.

But they faced criticism from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said her Government "made sure that the Royal Household were aware" about the ban on non-essential cross border travel between Scotland and England ahead of the couple's trip to Edinburgh.

Read more: No10 praises William and Kate's 'morale boost' tour despite backlash in Scotland and Wales

Read more: Sturgeon: Royals were warned Edinburgh visit could breach cross-border covid travel ban

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething also said he would prefer to have no unnecessary visits to the country.

Mr Gove told LBC's Nick Ferrari the trip was "definitely a working trip" and insisted the Duke and Duchess were "very welcome on the ground with everyone that they saw."

Asked whether he thought the criticism was justified, Mr Gove said: "No. I think that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are fantastic.

"I think the fact that they took time out to thank the heroes and heroines of our response to Covid was great, and I think that the response they got from folk on the ground was as you would expect warm and enthusiastic.

"I think William and Kate are a wonderful asset to this country as is Her Majesty The Queen."

Asked what he would say to Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Gove added: "I think it was definitely a working trip, they were very welcome on the ground with everyone that they saw.

"Other politicians will have their own views on this matter, but it's certainly the case that there is a warm welcome I know in Scotland for the Royal Family, because people recognise that William and Kate lead a life of service and that is something that we should all admire."

Downing Street said Boris Johnson welcomed the tour as it would provide a "welcome morale boost to frontline workers" who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The PM is delighted to see the warm reception the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have received on their hugely valuable train tour of England, Scotland and Wales.

"The tour will be a welcome morale boost to frontline workers who have done so much during the pandemic."

It comes after the prime minister's official spokesman told reporters the royal train tour was a "matter for the palace".

Asked whether Mr Johnson shared the concerns of Ms Sturgeon and Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething - who criticised the move, saying he would prefer it if "no-one was having unnecessary visits" - the spokesman said: "That is obviously a matter for the palace and I would point you towards them.

"But we set out clearly the tiers and the advice around the current guidelines that we are asking the public to abide by."

Pressed on whether the duke and duchess had complied with coronavirus restrictions, the PM's spokesman said: "I'm making the general point that we have set out the regionalised tier system that is now in place and the guidance that we are asking people to abide by."

On Tuesday, Mr Gething said he was not "particularly bothered or interested" when asked if he thought the couple should still travel to Wales.

However, he said their visit, part of a national tour by royal train, should not be used by members of the public as an "excuse" to say they are "confused" about Covid-19 regulations.