Statement on Dominic Cummings
"I totally understand the frustration and anger many people feel regarding the events of the weekend. We have all experienced our own hardships, inconveniences and struggles as we have been coping with the lockdown. Therefore, when we hear reports of others supposedly breaking the restrictions, particularly someone in a position of responsibility, it provokes an understandable reaction.
I have purposely waited to make a public comment because I have learnt in my time in politics that it is best to wait until you know all the facts before making a judgement. I have very carefully considered the situation and weighed up the all information before issuing this statement.
The initial media reports painted a very serious picture of Dominic Cummings and his journey to Durham. What is now clear is that these reports contained serious errors and aspects of speculation that have proved to be inaccurate.
In his statement on Monday Dominic Cummings laid out the series of events and actions by him as well as his reasoning behind the decisions he took. It is quite clear that he believes his reasons for making the decisions were both responsible and reasonable.
Over the past 10 weeks I have been contacted by dozens of constituents seeking my advice as to how the lockdown guidance and restriction applied to them. Many of them presented me with the reality of the dilemma many families have faced in seeking to abide by the restrictions whilst caring for their families in a responsible way.
In every case I have been clear that it is not my role as an MP to make these decisions for others. I have pointed them to the guidance and the exceptions within it when it comes to caring for children and other vulnerable family members. I have stated numerous times that it is down to individuals to use their judgement as to if the exceptions apply to them and to make the decision, they believe, is right for them and their family.
I have to say that if Mr Cummings had been a constituent of St Austell and Newquay this is the advice I would have given him.
We can all have our own views on whether or not Mr Cummings broke the lockdown guidance. But what is also clear is that he believed he was acting within the exceptions allowed in the guidance in order to make provision for the care of his young son. What I saw when I watched his statement on Monday was a father and husband who grappled with the dilemma of caring for his family in very difficult circumstances.
However, what is also clear is that this could have been handled so much better. Dominic Cummings himself acknowledged that it would have been better if he had provided his full explanation sooner than he did. The speculation that was allowed to build up over the weekend has made this issue far more difficult to address than it needed to be. Regrettably by the time he gave his account on Monday many people had already made up their mind and were unlikely to change it.
I must also say that the behaviour of many parts of the media over this matter has been unacceptable and it is quite clear that their reaction has been far more about the person and their desire to see him removed from office than the actual facts. The hounding of him and his family by some media and politically motivated people has been unacceptable in a civilised democracy.
I have never met Mr Cummings or had any direct contact with him. He fulfils an important role in government in the Prime Minister’s office, he is not elected, he is appointed directly by him and has no direct involvement in my role. I didn’t really have a view of him when he was appointed and still don’t. Whether or not Mr Cummings remains in post really is a matter for the Prime Minister. If he continues to have confidence in him than I accept that.
Please be assured however, I have passed on the strength of feeling of the many local people who have contacted me regarding this issue to the Prime Minister.
What is clear is that this whole episode has the potential to hugely damage the government’s work in fighting this virus. We cannot allow that to happen.
What we need now is to be able to draw a line under this matter and move on. Important steps are about to be taken in coming out of lockdown and allowing our economy to reopen. It is vital this happens in order to begin the recovery and we need the machinery of government to be able to focus on this task.
So, while I totally understand and accept that many people who have made sacrifices are angry and upset, many even feel betrayed, we cannot allow this episode to undermine our collective effort to win the fight against this virus.
We all need to continue to do what is needed to prevent the spread of the virus and work together to rebuild our economy in the coming weeks and months.
We need to support individuals, families and business to get through the challenging months that lie ahead. That is what I want to be able to focus on and trust that we can all do the same. I will therefore not be making any further comments on this matter. I want to focus all of my efforts on serving the people of St Austell and Newquay and getting through this challenging situation as best we possibly can."
Update - 29 May 2020
"Since writing my original statement the Durham Police have now reported on their investigations into this matter. They have stated that Mr Cummings did not break the lockdown restrictions in travelling to Durham. His drive to Barnard Castle was a potential minor breach but they will not be taking any further actions. All along this should have been a been a matter for the Police to resolve and not through trial by media. As far as I am concerned this should be the end of this matter and we should all now move on."
Steve Double MP