Sunday shows: Labour demands answers on “extraordinarily serious” Cummings story

Ridge on Sunday

Grant Shapps was asked about reports that Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules. Ridge had given advance warning of the questions she would ask. Shapps insisted that Cummings had followed the rules and denied allegations of a second trip to Durham.

  • On Cummings breaking the lockdown rules: “This comes down to somebody who was trying to do the best by their four-year-old child… Trying to position themselves where there was some family support.”
  • On travel and the guidance: “The guidance also says – to paraphrase – you have to look for common sense, practical solutions, particularly it refers to when you’re looking after children.”
  • On when Cummings displayed symptoms and travelled to Durham: “I understand that he will have travelled up there towards the end of March and stayed there, remained there for 14 days… as per the rules and the guidance.”
  • Asked if he stopped during the journey, and if he complied with the two-metre rule: “He’s a stickler for those rules about what to do to make sure you’re following the two-metre rules and the like… So I’m sure they took all the necessary precautions but I’m afraid I don’t have the detail.”
  • Asked why the minister did not have answers to questions made available to him before the interview: “You’ll appreciate, Sophy, I came on the programme actually booked originally to talk about the transport announcements.”
  • He added: “Downing Street put out a statement. They’ve been clear that he followed the guidance, that he did what we’re all supposed to do… Lockdown, remain in the same place, don’t interact with other people – he did all those things.”
  • Put to him that by travelling to from London to Durham, Cummings did not “remain in the same place”: “Well, he did once they were locked down. They sort of hunkered down and they stayed there for 14 days.”
  • On claims of a second trip: “There also are things being said here which are completely untrue. Actually, the basic story is pretty straightforward, husband and wife are ill, they hunker down, they look after their four-year-old.”
  • On the new allegation that he travelled back up to Durham on April 19th: “I know that’s not true.”
  • On whether he visited Barnard Castle, 30 miles from Durham, on April 12th: “I don’t know, but if that date was true, that would have been outside the 14-day lockdown period… I do know that it is not the case that he has travelled backwards and forwards.”
  • On his own claim that the police had not spoken to the Cummings family: “It was Mr Cummings’ father who contacted the police, not the other way around. And actually it was in reference to security advice… not about this specific issue.”
  • On when the PM knew about the journey: “The Prime Minister during exactly the same period was pretty ill and in fact eventually in hospital and in ICU, so I don’t think this will have been high on the Prime Minister’s agenda.”
  • Put to him that the public and press were briefed that Johnson was still working and leading the government at the time in question: “I don’t actually know whether the Prime Minister tracks every single move of Dominic Cummings.”
  • Asked if saving Cummings’ job is more important than getting people to adhere strictly to the lockdown rules: “The absolute critical part of this is remaining in the same location whilst you go through the 14 days of isolation, which is what happened. It wasn’t like they were travelling around in the period they were ill.”

Labour’s shadow policing minister Sarah Jones called on the Prime Minister to make clear “what he knew and what he’s going to do about it” regarding the Cummings story.

  • On Cummings breaking the lockdown rules: “People are rightly feeling: is it one rule for us and one rule for the people at the top?”
  • Asked if he should resign: “We need some really serious answers… You look at the office of the Prime Minister, questioning and undermining statements from our police force in Durham – this is very serious.”
  • She added: “There are people suffering and people making big sacrifices, and here we have a situation where someone whose family had symptoms travels halfway across the country.”
  • On what action Boris Johnson should take in response: “The Prime Minister needs to come to the press conference today and answer questions about what happened, what he knew and what he’s going to do about it.”
  • On an investigation: “We’ve written to Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, to say can you investigate this.”
  • Asked if she has sympathy with Cummings’ situation: “We all have sympathy with everybody in this situation… but I know single mums who’ve had Covid where their child has had to stay with them.”
  • On messaging during the lockdown: “We heard him [Johnson] say stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives – he didn’t say, or drive 260 miles to Durham if you think that’s the right thing to do.”
  • On Labour’s position on June 1st reopening of schools: “We want schools to go back, we want our children to be educated… But it has to be done correctly.”
  • On what has to happen beforehand: “We need to make sure that the test, track and trace system that the government has promised by 1st June to be in place, which is the only way we get out of this situation… That has to be in place.”

The Andrew Marr Show

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Shadow Home Secretary, said allegations that Cummings broke lockdown rules were “extraordinarily serious”. He set out Labour’s demands for an urgent investigation by the Cabinet Office and for the Prime Minister to do the press conference today. On Labour councils refusing to reopen schools on June 1st, he said: “I respect… wanting to put safety first”.

Dominic Cummings story…

  • On Labour’s demands: “What we’re asking for is two things. Firstly, there to be an urgent investigation by the Cabinet Office. And second for the Prime Minister today to take the daily press conference himself and provide answers. This is an extraordinarily serious situation. The British people have made extraordinary sacrifices to get through this crisis by following guidelines… The allegations we’ve seen are extraordinarily serious and they do need to be dealt with.”
  • Asked what he would do in Cummings’ situation: “I would follow the guidelines. We have had people in exactly these situations, tens of thousands of households, who’ve had to muddle through and follow guidelines as best they can.”
  • On questions that need answering: “Did the PM’s chief advisor take advice before making that extraordinarily long journey to Durham? What enquiries did he make as to what the availability was of childcare locally in London? On his own story at the moment, when he got to Durham he didn’t actually use that childcare at all. It was actually a family member who was delivering food. Is there a reason why that couldn’t be done in London either?”
  • On the police talking to the Cummings family: “10 Downing Street even now finds itself in the position of contradicting perfectly reasonable factual statements from the Durham Constabulary.”

Schools reopening…

  • On whether he backs councils refusing to reopen schools on June 1st: “I think it’s unsurprising that Labour councils are doing that, and of course I respect – right around the country, whether it’s Labour councils or other bodies – wanting to put safety first.”
  • Pressed on whether he backs them: “I back anybody, whether it’s Labour councils or others, who have not got to a stage where they have confidence from the government about safety.”
  • On the Welsh approach: “The Welsh Labour government has put in place a decision-making framework. That framework brings together everybody… to establish a consensus as to when it is safe to go back to school. The approach of trying to divide people, of trying to say that different people in the education sector want different things, is the wrong thing to do.”
  • He added: “Schools have been open throughout the crisis. There have been teachers on the frontline, for the children of key workers and for vulnerable children. Secondly, the Prime Minister made a very specific promise – that test, track and isolate would be up and running by 1st June. The government seems to be backing away somewhat from that.”
  • He described having the testing and tracing programme up and running as “absolutely essential”.

Grant Shapps was again asked about Cummings. He revealed that he has not spoken to Dominic Cummings “directly” despite defending him at the press conference on Saturday and on the Sunday shows.

  • On the police talking to the Cummings family, which was denied by Shapps on Saturday: “The police were actually advising about some security matters.”
  • On whether there was an “extreme risk to life” that explained the Durham journey: “A four-year-old can’t feed themselves, a four-year-old can’t bathe themselves and change their clothes. So it’s quite clear that they wanted to put some measures in place.”
  • On answering questions: “I came on your programme booked to talk about transport matters… For those reasons, my expertise lies in transport.”
  • On whether Cummings made a stop on the journey: “I’m afraid, again, I don’t know the answer to whether he stopped along the way.”
  • On whether people were allowed to visit family rather than stay at home when displaying symptoms: “We’ve never told people where they have to specifically locate themselves.” (The government guidance states that people “must remain in their primary residence”.)
  • On whether there is a new ‘Cummings clause’ in the guidance: “The key point has alway been that people remain locked down.”
  • On following the coronavirus guidance: “You should do the things which are practical.”
  • Asked whether Cummings will resign: “No.”

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