Thank you very much for contacting me about lockdown issues, and especially in relation to the Prime Minister’s adviser, Mr Dominic Cummings. I apologise for the slightly delayed response, but I’m currently dealing with an absolutely unprecedented amount of (often complex) casework brought about by the coronavirus crisis and there have also been several other issues recently that have each resulted in hundreds of emails from constituents. As you will appreciate, I always prioritise casework for my constituents first and foremost, but I always endeavour to respond to individually written correspondence from constituents as well and to do so within the timeframe that I set myself in my acknowledgment email.
I have read each email sent to me on this matter very thoroughly and I have noted carefully the points you raise.
I entirely understand why so many people are angry and upset. Since this pandemic began, I know that many residents have had to make very significant sacrifices in order to follow the lockdown measures since they were first put into place, and I have read further individual and family examples of this in the emails and letters that I have received. Yet we then heard that a very senior adviser at Number 10 appeared not to have followed all the rules himself.
I truly appreciate all the efforts people have gone to in responding to this crisis, the hardship that many families are still going through, and the sacrifices that people have made over recent months. I also understand the feelings many people have of injustice and hypocrisy following these events, and the worry that this may now have undermined the public’s trust in the Government’s public health advice. I hear your concerns loud and clear, and I raised them, along with my own, directly with Number 10 and the Whips’ Office.
Moreover, some people immediately demanded that I should call for Mr Cummings’ dismissal. Whilst I understood many peoples’ strength of feeling about this, especially in the light of the initial media storm and the stream of allegations that were being made, I also thought it important to allow the key and true facts and circumstances to come out, and, ideally, for Mr Cummings himself to have, and to take, the opportunity to explain in his own words what had happened.
Whenever it is alleged that someone has broken the law, as happened here, that certainly needs to be examined properly through the correct, independent channels. I am fiercely against trial by media or social media and I will always believe that, in matters of legality, everyone is owed due process, no matter who they are, what they do for a living, whether high or low, and no matter what the political circumstances are at the time.
As I understand it, Durham Constabulary has now made clear that they will not be taking any further action against Mr Cummings, and that the act of going to Durham itself did not breach the law or the regulations in light of his family situation at the time. The trip to Barnard Castle is much more problematic, in my view/in terms of the regulations, and the police did indeed find that this “might have been a minor breach of the Regulations”. I enclose the Durham Police statement, for your information, below.
Both in my private life and as an MP I try not to be too censorious, although doubtless I have many lapses. When several senior Labour Party figures have breached lockdown regulations over recent weeks, I have not publicly called them out nor called for their resignation. Whereas most people who wrote to me were severely critical of Mr Cummings and his actions and wanted him fired, there were those who felt that Mr Cummings was simply trying to do the best for his young son and family in very difficult circumstances and that his actions were understandable and allowable, given that no social distancing rules were breached at any point.
Ultimately, it is for the Prime Minister to decide whether he keeps on a key adviser. In this case the Prime Minister has taken his decision in full knowledge of the very strong opinion held by so many people that there was a clear, and almost unforgivable, breach of the spirit of the ‘stay at home’ rules, even if there were sensible caveats in the full guidelines about exceptional circumstances and looking after small children. I would suggest that the Prime Minister has not taken this decision lightly, given the state of public opinion about this matter, but that he has decided that it is important to him to keep his full top team in position supporting and advising him during this coronavirus crisis. I understand and respect that decision and the Prime Minister and Government continue to have my full support.
Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts and views with me about this matter.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
020 7219 6913 |firstname.lastname@example.org
Durham Constabulary press statement - 28/05/20
On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.
Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)
On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.
Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.
In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.
By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.
Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.
Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.