Jenrick is latest minister to give 'car crash' interview defending Cummingsby Sian Elvin
Another government minister has been accused of giving a ‘car crash’ interview defending Dominic Cummings.
Housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that it is time for the country to ‘move on’ from the PM aide’s coronavirus lockdown scandal.
‘He said he went to Barnard Castle on a short journey to ensure that he was fit for the longer journey back down to London to get on with his job within the government,’ he told presenter Mishal Husain.
He claimed ‘short car journeys for exercise were allowed at the time’ during full lockdown: ‘It was longer, unlimited journeys that were not.’
‘His explanation for that was that he took the short journey in order to ensure he was up for the longer journey he knew he had to do back to London.’
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Asked if he believes Mr Cummings should resign, Mr Jenrick said: ‘No, he shouldn’t.
‘He has given his explanation to the Prime Minister, who listened and concluded that he’d acted reasonably and legally.
‘The Prime Minister then asked him to give that statement on Monday to the public and to answer questions from journalists, he answered them for over an hour.
‘My view is that now we accept that and we move on because there are many, many more important issues that we need to be talking about.’
‘That’s not to say this isn’t an important issue or that people don’t care about it, but I think there’s a lot more that we need to focus on now.’
He is not the first minister to back the PM’s advisor, after cabinet officer minister Michael Gove called Mr Cummings a ‘man of honour and integrity’ .yesterday.
Boris Johnson has also continued to stand by his adviser, reiterating that he acted ‘legally’ and ‘with integrity’.
Mr Jenrick said the explanation given by Mr Cummings over his reasons for travelling to Durham was ‘reasonable’.
Asked if he could understand the anger of the public over the issue, Mr Jenrick said: ‘I can and many people would disagree with the decisions that Dominic Cummings made, both members of the public and members of Parliament.
‘But he set out why he made those decisions and his motivations, which were to protect his unwell wife and his young child, and to self-isolate at a household somewhere where he believed he could get the childcare and support that they needed.
‘I think that that’s a reasonable explanation and it’s a legal one, it doesn’t look as if any of the guidelines or the rules have been broken.’
Mr Jenrick said there will not be a review of UK lockdown fines for childcare-related travel, despite health secretary Matt Hancock saying this ‘would be looked into’ at yesterday’s press briefing.
The housing secretary said: ‘No, there isn’t going to be a formal review. It’s for the police to decide whether to impose fines under the law.
‘They have the guidance that we’ve provided and the national police chiefs have provided their own guidance, which does give officers a degree of discretion to use their common sense, reflecting the fact that all of our circumstances are different and families, in particular, face particular challenges.
‘They are encouraging their officers to engage in the first instance, to explain and to resort to fines only where absolutely necessary and in most cases that is what’s happened.’
He added: ‘Dominic Cummings didn’t break the guidelines, the police haven’t chosen, as far as I’m aware, to impose a fine upon him, and so I think we have to leave it there.’
The interview attracted a lot of negative attention on Twitter, with people calling it a ‘car crash’.
Speaker and author Peter Cook wrote: ‘Robert Jenrick is one of those useless MPs who just did a car crash interview on BBC Radio 4.
‘He says we must “move on”. I say we must stay put until Cummings is gone.’
It comes as Mr Johnson’s top aide remains at the centre of a political storm after he drove more than 250 miles to Durham while suffering from coronavirus symptoms in March.
So far, 30 Tory MPs have called for him to be sacked by the Prime Minister, while senior ministers are reported to have privately demanded he go.
They will be able to ask the PM questions about the situation during today’s committee hearing, but a rundown of the agenda revealed that only 20 minutes of the 90-minute session will be given to the discussion.
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