Dominic Cummings says 260 mile lockdown journey was 'reasonable and legal'

23 May 2020, 13:37

Dominic Cummings outside his London home
Dominic Cummings outside his London home. Picture: Getty

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson's senior advisor has said it was "reasonable and legal" to travel during the lockdown to stay with his parents.

The Prime Minister’s key adviser was spotted in Durham - almost 300 miles away from his London home - despite having had symptoms of coronavirus, a joint investigation by the Mirror and The Guardian revealed.

He was spoken to five days after the Government issued guidance which said: “You should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home.”

A member of the public is understood to have seen him and made a complaint to the police.

When questioned by reporters outside his home, Mr Cummings said: "I behaved reasonably and legally" and when asked if his trip to Durham during lockdown looked good, he said: "Who cares about good looks. It's a question of doing the right thing. It's not about what you guys think."

READ MORE: Who is Boris Johnson's senior advisor Dominic Cummings?

In a statement, Downing Street said: "Owing to his wife being infected with suspected Coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.

"His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside.

"At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally."

However, Acting Durham police crime and victims’ commissioner Steve White said Dominic Cummings travelling to Durham "when known to be infected was most unwise".

In a statement, he said: "Given the whole ethos of the guidance and regulations issued from the Government was to reduce the spread, regardless of reason, by travelling to County Durham when known to be infected was most unwise.

"To beat this crisis we need to be selfless as millions have been. The response by the people of County Durham and Darlington have been exemplary, which makes this most frustrating and concerning."

The Prime Minister’s key adviser was spotted almost 300 miles from his London home despite having had symptoms of coronavirus
The Prime Minister’s key adviser was spotted almost 300 miles from his London home despite having had symptoms of coronavirus. Picture: PA

Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove has also spoken out on behalf of Mr Cummings, tweeting: "Caring for your wife and child is not a crime."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, responding to the Number 10 statement looking to explain Dominic Cummings' reason for travelling during the lockdown, said an explanation had now been provided.

He tweeted: "It's reasonable and fair to ask for an explanation on this.

"And it has been provided: two parents with coronavirus, were anxiously taking care of their young child.

"Those now seeking to politicise it should take a long hard look in the mirror."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted: "Taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable, trying to score political points over it isn't."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: "I know how ill coronavirus makes you.

"It was entirely right for Dom Cummings to find childcare for his toddler, when both he and his wife were getting ill."

In a statement, a Labour spokesman said: "The lockdown rules were very clear: if you or anyone in your household was suspected of having Covid-19 you must immediately self-isolate and not leave the house. However, the Prime Minister's chief adviser appears to believe that it is one rule for him and another for the British people.

"This will cause understandable anger for the millions of people who have sacrificed so much during this crisis.

"Number 10's statement also raises more questions than it answers. We are still unclear who knew about this decision and when, whether this was sanctioned by the Prime Minister and whether Number 10 is now questioning the validity of the statement from Durham Police.

"At this afternoon's press conference, we will be expecting answers to these questions."

The SNP has written to Boris Johnson and the head of the civil service calling for an investigation into Dominic Cummings' "rule-breaking and the Tory Government's cover-up".

In the letter to Sir Mark Sedwill and the Prime Minister, the party's leader in Westminster Ian Blackford said he called for Mr Cummings to be sacked.

He asked for the following questions to be answered:

- When Boris Johnson first found out about Dominic Cummings' trip to Durham and the police investigation into the rule-breaking incident?

- Whether anyone in the UK Government sanctioned the rule-breaking incident?

- Why Dominic Cummings wasn't asked to resign or sacked at the time?

- What role Boris Johnson played in the decision to cover up the incident by keeping the public in the dark for eight weeks until the story was broken by a newspaper?

In a statement, Ian Blackford said: "I have written to Sir Mark Sedwill seeking an immediate investigation into the rule-breaking and the Tory Government's cover-up - and to call for Dominic Cummings to resign or be sacked.

"Boris Johnson must answer serious questions about his role in this incident and the cover-up - including when he found out, when he heard about the police action, why Mr Cummings wasn't sacked immediately, and why he kept the public in the dark for eight weeks until a newspaper broke the story.

"Dominic Cummings' position is completely untenable. This is a matter of leadership and judgment for the Prime Minister who must prevent lasting damage to his Government and his own reputation.

"Millions of us have made huge sacrifices over the months to obey the rules, while Boris Johnson's most senior adviser was breaking them. There cannot be one rule for the Tory Government and another for the rest of us.

"The excuses are not credible. There was absolutely nothing in the list of reasons under the law for leaving the house that allowed someone to travel the length of the country to stay with their parents, particularly not someone who was known to have the virus."

Number 10 have defended Dominic Cummings' actions
Number 10 have defended Dominic Cummings' actions. Picture: PA

Labour councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said in a statement: "Residents of County Durham who have been observing national Government rules for many weeks are shocked to hear reports that a senior Government figure travelled to Durham from London with coronavirus symptoms.

"This breach of the rule on self-isolation came at a time when the rate of infection was far higher in central London than in Durham.

"The public health guidance has been very clear and must apply to everyone if our communities are to be protected from this terrible virus."

And fellow Labour councillor Lucy Hovvels, portfolio holder for adult and health services, said: "If these reports are true, then the Prime Minister's chief adviser must be dismissed for arrogantly and flagrantly flouting the rules he played such a key role in devising.

"The hypocrisy of Dominic Cummings to think he is above his own Government's guidance is staggering. While the vast majority of our residents in County Durham have made such extraordinary and heart-breaking sacrifices during this pandemic, a senior Government adviser has driven the length of the country, displaying coronavirus symptoms, to swan back to his parents' house.

"Our communities will be appalled and will rightly expect us to condemn these irresponsible actions, which are an insult to the people who have lost their lives across our county. If the Government does not take immediate action against Cummings, it sends a message that there is one set of rules for those who make them and another for the people of the UK."

READ MORE: Lockdown measures in Scotland to be eased from next week - and schools reopen in August

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It was confirmed on 30 March Mr Cummings was self-isolating after experiencing symptoms, and the government had told the nation people should be staying at home, and not be visiting elderly relatives who were at greater risk from the virus.

It has been reported Mr Cummings has told colleagues he travelled to Durham after he and his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms so his parents could look after their young son.

His wife, journalist Mary Wakefield, later wrote an article describing their time in isolation - but made no mention of the trip to Durham.

A spokesman for Durham Constabulary told The Guardian: “On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.

“Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.

“In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”

Mr Cummings is not the first government figure thought to have breached lockdown rules.

Government scientist and advisor Professor Neil Ferguson quit his position on 6 May after a woman - said to be his "lover" - visited his home despite not being part of the same household.

And in April Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick was accused of breaking lockdown rules after visiting his parents twice.

In Scotland, former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned on the same day Mr Cummings was spoken to after travelling to her second home.

It has been reported Mr Cummings has told colleagues he travelled to Durham after developing Covid-19 symptoms so his parents could look after his son.
It has been reported Mr Cummings has told colleagues he travelled to Durham after developing Covid-19 symptoms so his parents could look after his son. Picture: PA

Political leaders have piled pressure on Mr Johnson to sack the 48-year-old strategist.

The Scottish National Party's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Cummings should resign or be dismissed by Mr Johnson and that it was a "key test of leadership" for the prime minister.

Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: "If Dominic Cummings has broken the guidelines he will have to resign, it is as simple as that."

Former Conservative MP David Liddington, said last night: "There's clearly serious questions that No 10 are going to have to address not least because the readiness of members of the public to follow government guidance more generally is going to be affected by this sort of story."