Dominic Cummings breached lockdown rules more than once
- Credit: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
Sunday newspapers have alleged that Boris Johnson's senior aide Dominic Cummings breached lockdown rules more than once.
New testimonies in the Observer and Sunday Mirror claim that Cummings was spotted back in Durham on April 19 - days after he was back at work having recovered from the virus.
This was at the point that the country was under full lockdown, with the government advice that people should stay at home.
The New European reported how he was avoiding social distancing measures on his return to work on April 14.
Ministers have spent the day insisting that Cummings had stayed in his property in Durham once he arrived there, after travelling to seek the support of his extended family.
But one eyewitness reports that he was seen in Barnard Castle - 30 miles from Durham - on Easter Sunday.
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Retired chemistry teacher Robin Lees told the newspapers: 'I was a bit gobsmacked to see him, because I know what he looks like. And the rest of the family seemed to match - a wife and child. I was pretty convinced it was him and it didn't seem right because I assumed he would be in London.'
He added: 'I went home and told my wife, we thought he must be in London. I searched up the number plate later that day and my computer search history shows that.'
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And another local couple saw him walking out in Houghall Woods near his parents' home on April 19, despite having returned to London days before.
The pair, who did not give a name, said: 'We were shocked and surprised to see him because the last time we did was earlier in the week in Downing Street.
'We thought 'He's not supposed to be here during the lockdown'. We thought 'What double standards, one rule for him as a senior adviser to the prime minister and another for the rest of us'.'Transport secretary Grant Shapps, speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, said Cummings had 'stayed put for 14 days' while residing at a family property, having preempted his own illness once his wife showed Covid-19 symptoms.
But the trip to Barnard Castle, if correct, would call that testimony into question.
Ian Blackford, leader in Westminster of the SNP, renewed his calls for the PM to axe Cummings from his team following the new reports.
He wrote on Twitter: 'It is clear that Boris Johnson must sack Dominic Cummings.
'When the PMs top advisor ignores the government's instruction to the public not to engage in non-essential travel he has to leave office. Immediately.'
A Labour source questioned why senior ministers had defended Cummings in light of the fresh allegations.
Labour has, along with the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, written to cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill demanding an inquiry into what happened.
The Labour source said: 'If these latest revelations are true, why on earth were Cabinet ministers sent out this afternoon to defend Dominic Cummings?
'We need an urgent investigation by the cabinet secretary to get to the bottom of this matter.
'It cannot be right that there is one rule for the prime minister's adviser and another for the British people.'
Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said the PM's judgment would be called into question if he did not give Cummings the chop.
'If Dominic Cummings is now allowed to remain in place a moment longer, it will increasingly be the prime minister's judgment that is in the spotlight,' said the former energy secretary.
'Surely Boris Johnson must now recognise the actions of his top adviser are an insult to the millions who have made huge personal sacrifices to stop the spread of coronavirus.'
Downing Street refused to comment on the alleged developments.
In a statement issued earlier on Saturday, No 10 said Cummings had acted 'in line with coronavirus guidelines' when driving up to seek child support from family after social distancing measures had been put in place.
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