Boris Johnson said that he intends to ‘draw a line’ under the Dominic Cummings controversy and said he would not allow advisors Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance to answer questions on the row to ‘protect them’ from a ‘political argument’.
He told a Downing Street conference: ‘I’ve said quite a lot on this matter already and what I also note is that what Durham police said was that they were going to take no action and that the matter was closed.
‘And I intend to draw a line under the matter, as I said yesterday to the Parliamentary Liaison Committee.’
Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, who raised the issue, he added: ‘I know that you’ve asked Chris and Patrick but I’m going to interpose myself if I may and protect them from what I think would be an unfair and unnecessary attempt to ask any political questions.
‘It’s very, very important that our medical officers and scientific advisers do not get dragged into what I think most people would recognise is fundamentally a political argument.’
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ITV’s Robert Peston said: ‘I don’t think this is a wholly political question Prime Minister. A number of the scientific advisers to the SAGE committee have said that the behaviour of your chief adviser in not going into quarantine at home risks more people not complying with the social distancing rules. ‘I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask Sir Patrick and Chris Whitty whether they fear that compliance with these rules will be reduced as a result of this.’Johnson jumped in again when questions were aimed at Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty about Dominic Cummings, telling the Downing Street briefing: ‘It’s very important our advisers are protected from being dragged into political controversy.’
A third question from Sky News’ Sam Coates asked: ‘Are you entirely comfortable with the prime minister telling you that you can’t answer questions abut Dominic Cummings? ‘And if you can’t give a verbal answer a nod or a shake of the head will suffice. And is there anything else the prime minister has told you not to answer on?’
Prof Whitty replied: ‘The desire to not get pulled into politics is far stronger on the part of Sir Patrick and me than it is in the prime minister.’
Sir Patrick added: ‘I’m a civil servant, I’m politically neutral, I don’t want to get involved in politics at all.’
Johnson noted: ‘Good. Unfortunately I have no choice.’
Keir Starmer, Labour leader, told journalists: ‘Nobody should be stopped from answering questions from journalists’.
And he tweeted: ‘Boris Johnson should have drawn a line under the Dominic Cummings saga but was too weak to act.
‘The public have sacrificed so much for the health of our nation – which he’s now undermined.
‘And sent a message that there’s one rule for them and another for the British people.’