Gove sidesteps questions over credibility of former aide Cummings

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove - Credit: PA

Michael Gove has insisted people will “make their own judgment” on Dominic Cummings’ evidence, as he sidestepped questions over the credibility of his former aide.

The Cabinet Office minister was challenged by Labour to give his personal opinion on allegations levelled against the Government by Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The testimony that we heard yesterday has left families across the country wondering why their loved ones… what happened to their (loved ones) and how they died, and all of us fearing that the government hasn’t learnt the lessons or taken the action needed to prevent more avoidable loss.

“The chancellor (of the Duchy of Lancaster) once said he’d reluctantly but firmly concluded that this prime minister was not capable of leading the party and the country the way he would have hoped.

“The chancellor knows Dominic Cummings very well as his former chief of staff, better than anyone else in this House.

“Does he believe him to be a credible and truthful witness?”

But Gove replied: “As far as yesterday’s testimony went, people will make their own judgment on everything that was said then. I’d say only two things: I’ve worked closely, and it’s been a privilege to work closely, with both the prime minister and secretary of state for health over the course of the last 12 months.

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“They have given unstinting service. It’s thanks to their leadership that, for example, we have a world-beating vaccination programme.

“It’s a privilege to serve alongside them. I think the prime minister is doing a fantastic job and also think the secretary of state for health has shown unstinting…”

Gove was then cut short by Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle for a lengthy response.

Rayner also said: “Learning the right lessons could save lives and the truth matters to us all, so can he tell us which, if any, of the claims made by Dominic Cummings he is now prepared to refute at this despatch box?”

Gove replied: “Well, I haven’t had the opportunity to read all of the evidence that was given yesterday, and indeed the speaker has enjoined brevity on me, but I think that the inquiry that we’ve been discussing previously, the public inquiry is the right place to review all the evidence from every individual.”

Earlier, Gove did not commit to meeting families bereaved by Covid-19 when asked by Labour’s Afzal Khan.

Khan explained he lost his mother and both parents-in-law as a result of the pandemic, adding: “Yesterday grieved families like mine watched in horror as Cummings detailed a litany of failures and gross incompetence right at the heart of this Government which the proposed statutory inquiry will no doubt examine in much more detail.

“Given the importance of this inquiry to bereaved families, will the minister agree to meet with me and representatives of Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice as soon as possible to ensure their voices are heard?”

After offering his condolences to Khan, Gove said: “So many people have lost those dear to them, that’s why it’s so important that at that inquiry we make sure that the voices of victims are heard and that their questions are answered properly and fully.”

Cabinet Office questions also saw Gove claim “there is no evidence” of cronyism in the government’s handling of contracts during the pandemic.

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