Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about Dominic Cummings.
First I want to acknowledge the many personal stories constituents have shared with me, both in recent days and throughout the course of this pandemic. I know the current restrictions have caused enormous amounts of hardship, pain and grief, particularly in situations where loved ones have been separated from one another at times of grave illness and, so sadly, death. My deepest sympathies go to everyone who has suffered loss and separation during this difficult period, but so too do my thanks for dutifully and selflessly following official guidance at huge personal cost.
Along with many others, I listened closely to Dominic Cummings’ statement on Monday afternoon. I believe it was right for him to address the situation personally, to correct many of the inaccurate allegations circulating up to that point, and to explain the reasoning behind his and his wife’s decisions.
On Mr Cummings’ account, the decision to travel to County Durham was motivated by a concern for his child’s welfare should he and his wife become too ill with coronavirus to care for him – an eventuality that Mr Cummings thought very likely. Official guidance makes clear that exemptions to lockdown restrictions are allowed in cases where a child’s welfare is at stake, a position also reiterated by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.
Mr Cummings did not travel to County Durham to spend time with his parents and relatives, for a holiday, or to visit his sick uncle who has now sadly passed away. Travelling for these reasons would not have been permitted under official guidance, even in the latter case with which many who have experienced similar tragedies will so sadly be familiar.
For the record, official guidance - including the passages that allow exemptions in cases where children are involved - can be read in full here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection. It’s worth noting that, on multiple occasions during the past two months, I have brought this very advice to the attention of constituents experiencing similar dilemmas due to vulnerabilities they or their dependents were facing. I therefore do not accept the claim that the rules were somehow different for Mr Cummings when he made his decision to travel to County Durham - they were the same.
Mr Cummings went on in his statement to give a detailed account of events and his movements during his period in County Durham, including that he travelled to nearby Barnard Castle after a 14 day period of self-isolation and his reasons for doing so. He then took extensive questions from journalists, clarifying and adding additional detail to his account.
I accept Mr Cummings’ account of events and his explanations of the reasons behind his decisions. I do not believe that he ultimately broke any official guidance. I will therefore not be calling for his resignation and will continue to support his remaining in post. As Mr Cummings himself acknowledged, others will of course disagree with the decisions he took, and I note that some of my parliamentary colleagues have come to this view. However this is not a view I share.
The focus of my and my team’s efforts during this pandemic has been to provide the best advice and guidance we can to constituents, whether that’s helping them to access financial support for their business, linking them up with a local community-led support group, or providing advice on how to act in difficult personal situations such as the one faced by Mr Cummings and his family. It is now to this work that I would like my team and I to return.