I can absolutely understand the outrage and questions that have arisen from these media reports about Mr Cummings. People may ask why I have not responded immediately; I wanted to find out more information before I made any comment on whether or not a person is guilty or not of breaching restriction regulations for the safety of his family.
Over the past few months, my team and I have worked relentless hours for our constituents in Hastings and Rye; answering emails on, for example, Government guidance during the pandemic, health and isolation issues, those worried about their elderly relatives, their incomes and how they are going to keep their businesses going. We have also heard many heart-rending stories of people unable to attend relatives’ funerals; not able to visit their relatives in care homes; cancelling long planned weddings; not there when their relatives are in ICU. I completely understand the frustration, anger and upset that the reports of the last few days have caused – I feel that too.
On the face of it, I feel very angry and frustrated; I completely understand the sentiment that there is one rule for them and one rule for us. We have seen the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland telling people to stay at home and then going off to her second home and Professor Ferguson of Imperial College, an adviser to the Government, breaching lockdown restrictions for other reasons. It is clear why many people draw the conclusion that there is a “them and us” mentality.
However, I have now heard Mr Cummings’ statement and am satisfied that the risk to him and his family in London, not just in terms of Covid-19 but also the safety of his family due to death threats made against him and harassment, warranted him seeking sanctuary for him, his wife and child. He clearly made a judgement, as a father and husband, that within the rules laid out, he could seek the support of his family in Durham and not put anyone in the public at risk. I would urge everyone to watch the statement that Mr Cummings has now made, in full, and listen to his clear, frank and detailed explanation of the events that took place and the judgements he exercised.
It is not a decision for me whether or not Mr Cummings should resign or be fired, that lies with the Prime Minister. I can only conclude that as a parent and wife, that I am satisfied that Mr Cummings did act within the rules and sought at every judgement to protect his family and also the wider public from any danger or ill-health from Covid-19.
The Government guidance does clearly state who can look after a child if both carers, or carer, were incapacitated. Right at the beginning of the lockdown, Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer made it clear that ‘if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance. And if the individuals do not have access to care support – formal care support – or to family, they will be able to work through their local authority hubs’. In this instance, Mr Cummings did have access to family, albeit a long way away. It is for this reason that I am satisfied that Mr Cummings made a reasonable judgement to provide the best possible support for his young son, whilst also maintaining safety for the general public, by seeking this support from his family in Durham.
I can understand that many people will continue to call for Mr Cummings to resign or be fired, but I think we must now move on from this episode. Mr Cummings has made a public statement in defence of his actions, and the Prime Minister is supporting him. We have some very important decisions being made this week on the easing of lockdown and we must now redouble our efforts in our strategy to defeat Coronavirus and bring an end to this awful disease.
The focus of my team and I for the past few months has been to provide the best support and advice we possibly can to help local residents and businesses navigate through this challenging period. I now want to put this sorry episode behind us and move on to focusing back on the important work that is required to ensure as we ease the lockdown measures we keep everyone safe – especially the most vulnerable – and support businesses as we begin to recover from these tough few months.