Response to comments regarding Dominic Cummings

Many constituents have written to me regarding their anger at the reports about Dominic Cummings. 
 
It is vital during these unprecedented times that everybody abides by the rules of lockdown, which have been put in place for all our safety.  It is extremely frustrating when most people have made huge personal sacrifices to see the rules being ignored by others.  I firmly believe that nobody, no matter what position they hold, should be exempt from following them. 
 
Over the past few months, my primary focus has been on supporting my constituents through this crisis, ensuring that they are aware of the guidance and that they are able access all forms of support to keep their families and business safe during this difficult time.  I have not responded immediately to this particular issue because it was important to me to have possession of all the facts and to allow Mr Cummings to account for his actions fully, rather than rushing to a judgement. 
 
I listened very carefully to the statement on Monday and I believe that Mr Cummings believes he was acting in the best interests of his family and for their protection – not just from the risks of COVID-19 but from serious threats of violence that have been made against him and I think this, in part, explains why he decided to travel to Durham.  I cannot judge him for wanting to protect his wife and young child.  However, I do not agree with all actions that Mr Cummings took, and I am disappointed that this situation has been allowed to become an unwelcome distraction from important public health messaging.
 
I understand how this looks and I do not disagree with the frustration and anger it has generated – Mr Cummings should have made a full accounting of his actions and the reasons for them as soon as this matter came to light, which he has subsequently acknowledged. 
 
Current guidance does state who can look after a child if both carers, or carer, became incapacitated and Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, made it clear at the beginning of lockdown that “if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance and if the individuals do not have access to care support – formal care support – or to family, they will be able to work through local authority hubs.”
 
As I understand it, Mr Cummings drove to Durham as he was beginning to become unwell so his young child was able to be cared for by other family members and he was able to isolate for 14 days in a separate building; because of the clear written exemptions in case of a child’s welfare, which I have outlined above, this is permissible under the rules. 
 
However, I’m sure you will appreciate that this is a developing situation and if evidence emerges that he did not maintain the quarantine period or breached other guidelines, which would have risked exposing the virus to others then, of course, he should be sacked with immediate effect and I have made it clear to the Government that this is my view.
 
I appreciate and acknowledge the difficult sacrifices made by my constituents during this exceptionally tough time for our country.   Neither I nor the Government underestimate this and I will emphasise to them the strength of feeling of constituents who have written to me on this issue.