Boris Johnson has again been forced to defend the actions of top adviser Dominic Cummings, after police concluded his drive to beauty spot Barnard Castle may have breached lockdown rules.
Durham Police said Mr Cumming’s decision to take a 260-mile trip from his parent’s country estate to Barnard Castle at the start of April “might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention”.
The force has, however, said no retrospective action will be taken and concluded that his initial 260-mile trip from London to County Durham was within the law.
A police spokesman said: “Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention.
“Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis.”
I’ve said quite a lot on this matter already and what I also note is that what Durham police said was that they were going to take no action and that the matter was closed.”
The prime minister, appearing at the daily Downing Street press briefing, dismissed questions on the matter saying it was time “draw a line” under the affair.
Mr Johnson also blocked the UK’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, from answering questions on Mr Cummings, saying it would not be right for advisers to respond on a “political controversy”.
He said: “I’ve said quite a lot on this matter already and what I also note is that what Durham police said was that they were going to take no action and that the matter was closed.
“And I intend to draw a line under the matter, as I said yesterday to the Parliamentary Liaison Committee.”
He added: “I know that you’ve asked Chris and Patrick but I’m going to interpose myself, if I may, and protect them from what I think would be an unfair and unnecessary attempt to ask any political questions.
“It’s very, very important that our medical officers and scientific advisers do not get dragged into what I think most people would recognise is fundamentally a political argument.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford hit out at the move, saying: “This is not a good look, we’re supposed to live in a democracy, not a form of dictatorship”.
He added: “I told the prime minister that he needs to put public health first and remove Dominic Cummings from post. There cannot be one rule for the Tory government and another for everyone else.
“In today’s meeting, Boris Johnson said we need to build up public confidence and people need to observe the rules. Many people will find that gobsmacking, given the Dominic Cummings scandal and his failure to act.”
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds added: “The police have confirmed what we all knew, that Dominic Cummings broke the rules he helped to write. The country cannot afford for this saga to carry on. Only Boris Johnson can draw a line under it.”
This continues to be a UK-wide approach, even though we may travel at slightly different speeds based on the scientific evidence.”
Downing Street spokesman
The row came as Mr Johnson announced that groups of up to six people will be able to meet outside in England from Monday.
The prime minister informed Nicola Sturgeon and leaders in Wales and Northern Ireland of the plan to move forward with lockdown in England this afternoon.
A Downing Street spokesman, speaking after the call, said: “The PM made clear that as we begin to move to the next phase of tackling this virus, he remains determined to work closely with the devolved administrations.
“This continues to be a UK-wide approach, even though we may travel at slightly different speeds based on the scientific evidence.”
He added: “They all agreed that continued engagement is vital and that they will remain in close contact in the days and weeks ahead.”
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