Wednesday 27 May 2020 9:22 am

Government backtracks on review of lockdown fines for childcare reasons

The government has backtracked on suggestions it may review fines for breaching the coronavirus lockdown where people said they were travelling for childcare-related purposes.

At yesterday’s coronavirus briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock was asked by a member of the public if the government would commit to reviewing lockdown fines where someone was travelling for childcare, an obvious reference to the scandal surrounding the Prime Minister’s top aide Dominic Cummings.

Read more: Coronavirus: Boris Johnson to face MPs amid Dominic Cummings row

Hancock said: “It’s a very good question and we do understand the impact and the need for making sure that children get adequate childcare, that is one of the significant concerns that we have had all the way through this.”

Hancock said the government would “look at” the issue, however, today communities secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC that the government were leaving decisions in the hands of the police.

“There isn’t going to be a formal review, this is a matter for the police,” Jenrick said.

He said the government “are not going to interfere with the police’s decision making here, if you have broken the guidelines then it is a matter for the police whether they chose to impose a fine on you”.

Hancock was being “questioned in the moment by a member of the public and it was looked into and concluded that the right thing here is to leave this at the discretion of the police,” Jenrick said.

Jenrick also went on to defend Cummings and try to move away from the story which has dominated the news agenda since the story broke on Friday.

“The Prime Minister believes that his explanation is reasonable and within the law, now the right thing for us to do, important though this issue is, obviously it’s excited a lot of media interest, and concern amongst members of the public too, but the right thing now is for us to move on and address the many, many other important issue as we try to control the virus, and restart the economy.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be grilled by senior MPs today as the prime minister faces growing pressure from within his own party to sack Cummings.

Read more: Matt Hancock defends Dominic Cummings as lockdown row continues

Johnson will appear in front of the Commons Liaison Committee for the first time since taking office, with MPs set to ask about the government’s handling of coronavirus.

But the committee, which is the only one entitled to question the prime minister, will likely also ask about Cummings’ controversial trip to Durham.

The senior adviser has defended his decision to drive 260 miles from his London home, saying it was necessary for childcare purposes. He has also said that a further trip to Barnard Castle was intended to test his eyesight before driving back to London.

But his actions have sparked outrage across the political spectrum.

Junior minister Douglas Ross yesterday resigned over the controversy, while more than 35 Tory MPs have called on Cummings to step down.

Despite the mounting political pressure, Johnson has maintained support for his top aide, saying his actions were reasonable.

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