Johnson says it is time 'to move on' from Cummings row
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it was time for Britain to move on from what he described as a "very, very frustrating episode" when his closest adviser Dominic Cummings was accused of violating the coronavirus lockdown rules.
Mr Johnson, who was questioned by the Liaison Committee today, has stood by Mr Cummings.
"It's been a very, very frustrating episode and I understand why people have been so concerned, because this country is going through a horrendously difficult time," Mr. Johnson told a parliamentary committee.
"(If) what we need to do is to focus on getting the message right ... then I think what we need to do really is to move on."
Mr Johnson rejected calls for Dominic Cummings to face an inquiry over his actions.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons Liaison Committee: "Quite frankly I'm not certain - right now - that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time. We are working flat out on coronavirus."
Mr Johnson also said he has seen evidence to prove that some of allegations made against Mr Cummings were false, but he refused to say which parts of the allegations he believes are untrue.
The Prime Minister's senior adviser drove from London to Durham to isolate with his family during the lockdown. He also took a trip to Barnard Castle, which he said was to see if he was fit enough to drive before returning to London.
One minister has quit in protest and dozens of Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Cummings to leave his post.
A YouGov survey for The Times showed the Conservative lead over Labour had been cut by nine points during the saga - the biggest drop since 2010 - as support for the Government fell four points to 44%, with Labour rising five points to 38%.
Ministers have been forced to deny that a review was being launched into fines that have been issued to other people travelling with their families.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock used Tuesday's Downing Street press conference to indicate he would consult the Treasury and "look at it", but on Wednesday morning, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said "there isn't going to be a formal review" and the issuing of fines was a matter for the police.
He defended Mr Cummings' actions and said people could "exercise a degree of personal judgment" in following lockdown laws.
"If there are no other options, if you don't have ready access to childcare, then you can do as Dominic Cummings chose to do," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"The guidelines say that you must do your best, but they appreciate that family life poses particular challenges, and in order to protect children you are able to exercise a degree of personal judgment."
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Tory MPs and scientists advising ministers have warned that Mr Cummings' actions risk undermining respect for the restrictions which have helped curb the spread of a virus that has been linked to at least 47,300 deaths in the UK.
County Durham's three Conservative MPs issued a joint statement saying Mr Cummings had created a "major distraction", but stopped short of calling for him to go.
"Overall, we believe his actions to be motivated out of his desire as a parent to do what he thought was necessary in protecting his family," said the statement from Richard Holden, Dehenna Davison, and Paul Howell.
"However, in the same circumstances, none of us would have made the decisions he made - particularly over the visit to Barnard Castle."
Mr Johnson will face around 20 minutes of questioning on the Cummings row during his appearance before the Liaison Committee, a panel made up of select committee chairmen and women.
Health and Social Care Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt - one of the MPs on the panel - has said he believes Mr Cummings broke the rules.
Women and Equalities Committee chairwoman Caroline Nokes said "there cannot be one rule for most of us and wriggle room for others".
Mr Cummings said he drove to Durham to isolate in a property on his father's farm because of concerns over care for his four-year-old son if both he and his wife were incapacitated by Covid-19.
But at least 30 Conservative MPs have voiced their frustration over Mr Cummings, after he expressed "no regrets" about his trip.
On Tuesday, Douglas Ross quit as a junior Scotland Office minister, saying he could not "in good faith" defend Mr Cummings' actions.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said he wanted coronavirus test results to be returned within 24 hours as his government prepares to launch a new tracing system to try to contain the spread of Covid-19.
This system will be in place from Thursday, he said.
"This has gone from a complete standing start to a huge operation and so I don't want to give you an exact deadline to when we will get down to 24 hours, but that is plainly the ambition and we will do it as soon as we can," he said.
Mr Johnson said he expects "not everybody will go back" on day one of the phased reopening of schools next week, but insisted it is "safe provided everybody remembers the guidelines we've set out", including social distancing and hand washing.
On whether the plan is for the remaining primary school pupils to return a month before the summer holidays, Mr Johnson said: "We will keep that under review, we'd like to do it if we can, it depends on our national success in keeping the disease under control."
Pressed on introducing a catch-up premium and summer schools to help disadvantaged pupils, the PM told the Liaison Committee: "I want to support any measures we can to level up."
He added: "There's no doubt a huge social injustice is taking place at the moment because some kids are going to have better access to tutoring and schooling at home, and other kids aren't going to get nearly as much, and that's not fair.
"That's one of the reasons we need to get schools back."
He said the catch-up fund was a "good idea", before highlighting support in place, adding: "There's a lot more that needs to be done."