Michael Gove defends ally by claiming he too drives to ‘test his eyesight’

Michael Gove answers questions on Dominic Cummings. Photograph: LBC.

Michael Gove answers questions on Dominic Cummings. Photograph: LBC. - Credit: Archant

Cabinet minister Michael Gove was sent out to defend Dominic Cummings up against fresh scrutiny of his Downing Street statement.

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari asked Gove about his claim that he used a journey to Barnard Castle on his wife's birthday to check his vision, having travelled 260 miles from London to Durham.

At the press conference, Cummings said: 'My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease.

'She did not want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child given how ill I had been.

'We agreed that we should go for a short drive to see if I could drive safely, we drove for roughly half an hour and ended up on the outskirts of Barnard Castle town.'


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Ferrari asked Gove if he would have gone 'on a 60-mile round trip to test your eyesight?' - only for the minister to claim he had done similar in the past.

He said: 'I have, on occasions in the past, driven with my wife in order to make sure, what's the right way of putting it...'

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The presenter said he was 'staggered,' adding he could not see how the minister was 'going to be able to get out of this one.'

But Gove said the 'people who know me would know that I am not an authority on driving.'

He added he was 'not the best person in the world to ask detailed questions about driving.'

'I merely asked you if you've ever been on a 60-mile round trip to test your eyesight and you said you had,' shot back the presenter.

Gove said he was 'seeking to make' was that he is 'not an authority on driving' as 'someone who took seven attempts to pass their driving test, I'm not going to pass judgement on other people's driving.'

A former police constable for Great Manchester Police claimed such instances of this was breaking the Highway Code.

Sir Peter Fahy told the Today programme: 'Clearly, number one, that's ill-advised as a means of testing your eyesight as to whether you're fit to drive, but again it's hard to see - unless there's some justification that that was to take daily exercise - how that was justified.'

Pressed on if it was a criminal offence, Sir Peter replied: 'It certainly appears to be against the Highway Code. It's not the way to test your eyesight, and put potentially other people in danger.'

Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that: 'If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road while his eyesight is such ... that he cannot comply with any requirement as to eyesight ... for the purposes of tests of competence to drive, he is guilty of an offence.'

Prime minister Johnson has said that his own eyesight was affected by coronavirus, saying that he was 'having to wear glasses for the first time in years' after suffering coronavirus.

He added: 'I'm finding that I have to wear spectacles for the first time in years - because I think of the likely effects of this thing - so I'm inclined to think there's some ... I think that's very, very plausible that eyesight can be a problem associated with coronavirus.'

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and Moorfields Eye Hospital said there was little evidence to link Covid-19 to eyesight problems,

A statement said: 'At present, there is very little evidence to suggest that Covid-19 can affect eyesight.

'Cases where Covid-19 is recorded alongside an impact on eyesight are rare, so we cannot establish a direct causal effect.

'We need more data to be collected on Covid-19-related eye conditions to see if there is an association.'

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