Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere MPs back Cummings in lockdown row

PUBLISHED: 10:30 26 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:39 26 May 2020

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps. Picture: Office of Mr Dowden/ Office of Mr Shapps.

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps. Picture: Office of Mr Dowden/ Office of Mr Shapps.

Archant

MPs for Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere have backed the prime minister’s chief aide after he drove 260 miles while his wife had coronavirus symptoms during the UK-wide lockdown.

Grant Shapps and Oliver Dowden – who are both cabinet ministers – have claimed that Dominic Cummings followed the guidelines and looked after his family by travelling to Durham to seek childcare for his four-year-old son.

Mr Shapps, who is the transport secretary, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the seven days self-isolation for suspected coronavirus, when you have children, means coming to reasonable decisions.

He said: “Looking at the guidance and what we hear, there’s also a section that says that if you’re living with children keep following this advice to the best of your ability.”

Mr Cummings admits travelling to his family home on Friday, March 27 – but staying in a separate part of the property away from his elderly parents – so he could get childcare while his wife was ill and he thought it likely he would become ill.

Andrew Marr pointed out that at the time Mr Cummings had no symptoms.

“I’m afraid, you know, I’m transport secretary, you’re probably pushing me beyond my area of expertise and knowledge,” the MP for Welwyn Hatfield said.

Mr Shapps claims he had not spoken to the prime minister’s aide, before coming on the show, so he didn’t know whether Mr Cummings had gone to Barnard Castle for a 50-mile trip on his wife’s birthday.

Mr Cummings admitted on Monday that he went to the beauty spot on Sunday, April 12 but said he had been testing his eyesight.

He said: “My wife was very worried, particularly given my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease. She didn’t want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child, given how ill I had been.”

Mr Shapps added: “I know everyone is feeling the strain of [being under lockdown] and we do need to carry on making sure that we keep the [rate of infection or] R rate below one and keep reducing the numbers.”

Hertsmere MP Mr Dowden, the culture secretary, tweeted in support of Mr Cummings, saying it was the end of the story.

He was criticised by Potters Bar councillor Chris Myres, who said on twitter: “We don’t see eye-to-eye on very much, but I at least thought you were more honest than this.”

Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media on Monday. Jonathan Brady/PA WireDominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media on Monday. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Harry Potter author J.K Rowling also responded to Mr Dowden’s tweet saying: “I know ending stories and this ain’t it, chief.”


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