North Herts and South Cambs MPs on Dominic Cummings’ Durham drive
- Credit: PA
Dominic Cummings’ drive to County Durham during lockdown has dominated national news since the weekend – but what have our MPs for North East Herts and South Cambs said on the matter?
Mr Cummings – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief advisor – drove his wife, who had COVID-19 symptoms, and his child 260 miles to a property on his parents’ farmland in Durham in March to self-isolate.
He gave a press conference on Monday this week in Downing Street to explain his actions to the public and press. He said that he self-isolated and only had shouting conversations with his parents from a distance.
He said he didn’t regret what he did because they were exceptional circumstances in that if he and his wife both became ill and unable to look after their child, his family nearby could.
He claimed a journey the family took to Barnard Castle – 30 miles from his parents’ property – on the day he drove back to London was to test his eyesight, which had been affected after he developed COVID-19 following their arrival to the north east.
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His actions prompted calls to resign from members of the public, many of whom had sacrificed seeing loved ones due to complying with government guidelines to stay at home in the coronavirus lockdown.
When the news of his travels broke, South Cambs MP Anthony Browne tweeted: “With Dominic Cummings and his wife unwell, it is clear they had good medical reasons to isolate at their parents so their children could be looked after. It would be a risk to their children not to do that. There is absolutely no reason for him to resign.”
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Mr Browne hasn’t responded to the Crow’s request for comment, which we made after Mr Cummings’ press conference revealed his reasons for travelling and more details about where he had been.
North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald told the Crow: “I am receiving many messages, including those supporting Dominic Cummings and those against. I am summarising these to the Government. This is a matter for the Prime Minister.”
Today, Durham police have released a statement saying there was a minor breach of lockdown rules while the Cummings’ were in Durham, but no retrospective action would be taken.
• The Durham Constabulary statement in full:
On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.
Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)
On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.
Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.
In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.
By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.
Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.
Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.