Government will not review travel fines issued to those seeking childcare

27 May 2020, 08:47

Matt Hancock said fines would be looked into but the government later backtracked
Matt Hancock said fines would be looked into but the government later backtracked. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The government will now not be reviewing fines issued to those travelling to seek childcare in England, despite claims by the Health Secretary he would "look into it".

The government has come under fire in recent days after the Prime Minister's chief aide Dominic Cummings admitted travelling 260-miles from London to Durham during the height of lockdown.

But Mr Cummings has repeatedly claimed he did nothing wrong, saying he had made the mammoth journey so they would have someone nearby to look after their son, in case he and his wife were too ill to care for him.

His explanation prompted Martine Poole, a vicar from Brighton, to ask whether the government would review all fine imposed on families who were travelling for childcare purposes.

In his answer Matt Hancock seemed to be prepared to review - and potentially amend - public policy in the wake of the Cummings scandal said he would "look into" the matter.

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 have had all the way through this.

Martin Poole, a vicar from Brighton, asked whether fines would be reviewed during the Downing Street press conference
Martin Poole, a vicar from Brighton, asked whether fines would be reviewed during the Downing Street press conference. Picture: PA

"So I think especially coming from a man of the cloth, that is perfectly reasonable to take away that question.

"I'll have to talk to my Treasury colleagues before I can answer it in full and we'll look at it and if we can get your details I'll make sure we can write to you with a full answer and make an announcement from this podium."

But it was announced just hours later by a government advisor that "no formal review" would be taking place.

Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Mr Poole said while he did not seek to amend government policy, he thought those who might have been fined for travelling for the same reasons as Mr Cummings may feel "hard done by" and should have their fine repealed or waived.

He added that Mr Hancock's answer "seemed to me there was a promise the government would look into it", but that they "seem to have rode back on that".

Mr Poole also said: "My intention was not to change public policy, my intention was to say let's have a level playing field here, let's have everybody be treated the same.

READ MORE: 40 Tory MPs call for Dominic Cummings to quit as party rebellion grows

READ MORE: Towns in England will face 'local lockdowns' to tackle coronavirus

Dominic Cummings has refused to resign after it was revealed he travelled 260-miles to Durham to seek childcare
Dominic Cummings has refused to resign after it was revealed he travelled 260-miles to Durham to seek childcare. Picture: PA

"I'm very concerned as a vicar and as a person of faith about the inequalities there are in our society and I want to see that ironed out as much as possible".

On Monday Mr Cummings - an unelected civil servant - made the unprecedented step of holding a televised press conference to answer questions about his journey.

But he came under further fire after admitting to driving 30-miles to Barnard Castle and briefing stopping on a river bank - despite the rest of the country being told to "Stay Home".

Mr Cummings said he had driven to the local beauty spot with his wife and young child in the car to "test his eyesight" before returning to London.

But his explanation has done little to quell public fury, and recent surveys have revealed 71 per cent of Brits think he should resign from his position.

Mr Johnson's public approval has also slumped in the wake of the scandal to minus figures, with his current rating sitting at -1 per cent.

According to the Telegraph, six cabinet members have told colleagues they think Cummings should resign, although none of them have said so publicly.

The scandal has created a Tory revolt, with over 40 MPs going public with their plea for Mr Cummings to be removed from his position.

Douglas Ross, a junior minister, also yesterday resigned from government in protest claiming Mr Cummings' view on the lockdown guidance "was not shared by the majority".

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