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Gavin Williamson backs Dominic Cummings as Black Country Tory MPs keep quiet

By Peter Madeley | South Staffordshire | Politics | Published:

Gavin Williamson has defended Dominic Cummings over allegations that he breached Government lockdown rules, insisting that "at no stage" did he break the law.

Dominic Cummings drove 260 miles to County Durham during the coronavirus lockdown

The Education Secretary said the PM's chief advisor had acted in the best interests of his child when he made a 260-mile round trip during the early stages of the lockdown – and that Boris Johnson was right to support him.

Mr Cummings travelled to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family – apparently because he feared that he and his wife would be left unable to care for their son – while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys.

Further reports also suggested he took a second trip to the North East in April, having already returned to London following his recovery from Covid-19 – a disease which has seen more than 45,000 people in the UK die after contracting it.

Mr Johnson defended Mr Cummings during Sunday's Downing Street press briefing, saying he had "acted responsibly, legally and with integrity".

Several Conservative backbenchers have joined calls from opposition parties for Mr Cummings to quit or be sacked, amid warnings that his actions have “undermined” efforts to fight coronavirus.

But South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson said: "There has been a large number of accusations that have been levelled at Dominic Cummings and completely understandably the Prime Minister wanted total clarity on it.

"He sat down with Dominic and had an in-depth conversation about it to absolutely be categorically assured that Dominic Cummings and his family had followed the guidance."

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"The guidance is very extensive and at the heart of it is that we should always safeguard children," he added.

"And making sure that children are always protected and my understanding is that at every stage, Cummings and his family followed the guidance and at no stage did they break the law."

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Cabinet Minister and South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson

Other Conservative MPs from across the Black Country and Staffordshire remained tight-lipped this morning, with some saying they were waiting for the "full facts" to emerge before passing judgment.

Mr Cummings is believed to have travelled with his wife and four-year-old son to Durham on March 27, where he is said to have isolated for 14 days.

Witnesses claim they saw him and his son outside the property on April 5, with others claiming they saw his car 30 miles away at Barnard Castle on April 12.

'One rule for Cummings'

Labour MPs in the Black Country are among those to criticise the Government's response.

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, the Shadow Leader of the House, said: "It's one rule for Dominic Cummings, the PM's friend, and another rule for the rest of us.

"My constituents are making astonishing personal sacrifices to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. People are furious and quite rightly so."

Pat McFadden, the Wolverhampton South East MP and Shadow Economic Secretary, said: "It is always a major problem for any government if it looks like there is one rule for some, and another for everyone else.

"People have made huge sacrifices during lockdown, often at great personal cost, and I just don't think they will believe the Government's excuse on this."

He added: "Some leaders appear to think they are living in an age of impunity, but this time that does not appear to be the case."

At least 15 Conservative backbenchers have called for Mr Cummings to go.

Former minister Steve Baker said if Mr Cummings does not resign “we’ll just keep burning through Boris’s political capital at a rate we can ill afford in the midst of this crisis”.

The PM also came in for stinging criticism from bishops.

Bishop John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, said: "The PM’s risible defence of Cummings is an insult to all those who have made such sacrifices to ensure the safety of others.

"The PM tells us that Cummings ‘followed the instincts of every father’ and that he ‘does not mark him down for that’.

"The point is that thousands and thousands of parents, including me, have not been able to follow their instincts because they felt they had to obey the rules!"

Mr Cummings is due to make a statement on the issue this afternoon.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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