Grant Shapps struggles to answer Dominic Cummings questions despite having them in advance

PUBLISHED: 12:01 24 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 24 May 2020

Grant Shapps on Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Grant Shapps on Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Sky News

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has left a lot of questions unanswered in a television interview, despite having been sent the questions in advance.

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In a tweet sent at 8pm last night from the official Sophy Ridge on Sunday account, it had been announced that Shapps would be responding on Dominic Cummings’ lockdown breach as per newspaper reports. The tweet read: “Grant Shapps may understandably not know all of the details we ask for. So we’re taking the unusual step of flagging in advance some of the questions Sophy Ridge will ask.”

This comes after Cummings, the government’s most senior adviser, allegedly breached the coronavirus rules he helped drawing up for the UK.

But during the live show, Shapps said he does not know the timeline of when Cummings and his wife started showing symptoms and when they drove more than 360 miles from London to Durham: “I don’t want to disappoint you, I am transport secretary and I am expert in building our infrastructure, but I don’t know all the times and dates for you. I understand that he will have travelled there around the end of March, stayed there for 14 days and didn’t leave the property in isolation as per the rules in the guidance.”

He had repeatedly stated he would prefer speaking about his plans regarding transport after coronavirus while answering questions related to Cummings.

“This is all very interesting and you’re absolutely right to ask the questions,” Shapps said, adding:

“I am sure there is a level of interest about it but actually, having built ourselves out of coronavirus, big announcements like the billion pound programme I announced yesterday to build the A66 all the way into a dual carriageway, things that actually matter to people’s everyday lives and will do once we come out of the crisis, things I am an expert in, are probably more interesting than how one family looked after their four-year-old by staying in a single location and not as has been suggested in the newspapers, driving back and forth.

“There are big issues here that matter to the country and most of these questions have been answered now.”

Shapps also highlighted the most important part of the guidance is to “self-isolate” for 14 days and “stay in that location”, which he says Cummings adhered to, as well as “look for common sense solutions” - but that the guidance did not say how far youa re allowed to drive.

Ridge pointed out Cummings and his family may have stopped in their four hours and a half journey with his small child and sick wife, but Shapps says “he wasn’t with them” but he saw Cummings yesterday “asking journalists to stay two metres apart” so he trusts he obeys the rules.

Shapps also said that the allegations that Cummings travelled to Durham “backwards and forwards” are “completely untrue” and that he has been in London since his return on April 14.

In a press conference yesterday, Shapps said no one from the police has spoken to Cummings or family members, but today he said police was involved “for some security matters”, and that it was Cummings’ father who contacted the police, not police getting in touch with the family.

During the interiew, Ridge pointed out Durham police said on Tuesday, March 31 they were made aware Cummings travelled from London and Durham, and the following day they spoke to Cummings’ father, who confirmed the trip had happened.

Ridge also asked Shapps if the prime minister was aware of the journey.

“The prime minister during the same period was pretty ill and went eventually in hospital and in ICU, so I don’t think this would have been high on the prime minister’s agenda,” Shapps said.

However, Cummings’ travel to Durham happened while the prime minister was showing symptoms, self-isolating but still working, which Shapps admitted eventually but said he does not know “if Johnson tracks every move of Dominic Cummings”.

Ridge also pointed out there has been a lot of suffering and sacrifices people have made during the pandemic – including ones directly related to Cummings’ rules on funerals and hospital admissions.

Shapps replied: “My heart goes out to everybody who has been affected this virus and it is true that people haven’t been able to attend funerals and families and so on and so forth, but I just want to be completely clear about what’s happened here.

“This is not ‘Dominic Cummings went to see his parents’, he was in a separate adjacent property.

“This is somebody who followed the guidelines by going to lockdown in order to be in the best place to ensure that provision was made for a four-year-old, who would have not been able to look after himself, and as the guidance makes clear, you must do in this situation the thing which would look after children for their welfare in the best possible way.”

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