/Parents free to relocate to seek childcare like Cummings did, says minister

Parents free to relocate to seek childcare like Cummings did, says minister

Everyone can drive across the country and relocate their households to seek childcare in the same way that Dominic Cummings did, a cabinet minister has said, but there will be no review of fines imposed on people who have done that before now.

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said people could do the same as Cummings, even though his actions have provoked uproar, with up to 40 Conservative MPs calling for him to resign and surveys showing most of the public think he was wrong.

“If there are no other options, if you don’t have ready access to childcare, then you can do as Dominic Cummings chose to do,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Jenrick said it was not possible for any fines already issued to people for driving to seek childcare to be reviewed, contrary to suggestions from Matt Hancock, the health secretary, on Tuesday.

“There isn’t going to be a formal review. It’s for the police to decide whether to impose fines under the law,” Jenrick said.

The controversy was ignited last week when the Guardian and Mirror revealed that Cummings had driven across England to his parents’ estate in Durham fearing that he and his wife may have contracted coronavirus, in order to seek possible childcare for their four-year-old child.

After his 14-day quarantine period, Cummings took his family on a 60-mile round trip to a beauty spot in Barnard Castle, which he says was to test whether his eyesight was good enough for him to drive back to London.

Despite polls showing that the public want Cummings to resign for breaching the lockdown, Jenrick continued to insist that the prime minister’s aide had done nothing wrong, and he called for people to “move on” from the row.

“Dominic Cummings didn’t break the guidelines, the police haven’t chosen, as far as I’m aware, to impose a fine upon him, and so I think we have to leave it there,” he said.

More Tory MPs went public on Tuesday night and Wednesday with calls for Cummings to resign, while three of the party’s new County Durham MPs – Richard Holden, Dehenna Davison and Paul Howell – said none of them would have taken the same decision and acknowledged that the “continuing situation is creating a major distraction”.

In Cummings’ defence, Danny Kruger, a former No 10 aide and new Conservative MP, raised the stakes by telling colleagues in a note that demands for resignation were tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

Nicholas Watt

And this is the Danny Kruger note pic.twitter.com/7YBdh2dO1A

May 26, 2020

Nadhim Zahawi, another Tory MP, was reported by Sky to have been circulating focus-group research that purports to show that while the story about Cummings “has traction, it hasn’t ignited passions” and that some people are becoming “increasingly annoyed with the wall-to-wall coverage”.

The government will continue to seek to draw a line under the controversy on Wednesday, with Hancock unveiling some more details of how a new track-and-trace system to bear down on local outbreaks will work. It is likely to involve very localised lockdowns of schools, hospitals, housing estates or parts of towns that see flare-ups.

Jenrick told LBC: “If we can get our track-, trace-and-test system set up across the country, if there is a flare-up in a particular community, or somewhere that’s even more micro than that like a school or workplace, [or] hospital, then we’ll be able to ask those people who’ve come into close contact with the individuals who’ve got the virus to stay at home, to self-isolate for a short period of time.”

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