Throughout the coronavirus crisis, I have been clear that we should all comply with the government guidance. That means everyone equally, including all advisors to the government. I therefore completely understand the anger and frustration at what was reported about Mr Cummings.
I believe in listening to both sides of the argument, and am therefore glad to have heard Mr Cummings’ full account of the actions he took, and his reasons for them. He stated that the aspect of the guidance referring to the particular circumstances for the care of a young child applied in his case. This corresponds with the statement made by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer on 24 March, when she said “Clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance.” I therefore acknowledge that the guidance can be interpreted in the way Mr Cummings has done.
However, Mr Cummings himself said “there is room for reasonable disagreement” about whether he should have stayed in London, and I do not criticise anyone who does indeed disagree with him. Personally, I find the trip Mr Cummings took to Barnard Castle very difficult to justify and am disappointed that he did not apologise for it.
Mr Cummings said he should have made his statement earlier, and I firmly agree. I have made this point emphatically to people in the government who are obviously more senior than me. I have also stressed the strength of anger in the emails I have received, and explained that I sympathise with many of the points that have been raised.
I especially feel for the parents who are frustrated that the guidelines have meant they were unable to travel to be nearer grandparents who might have been able to help their children if they had fallen ill, or for grandparents to visit them.
I am in no doubt that many people in my constituency have been through huge difficulties and made incredible sacrifices over the past weeks; some have endured heart-breaking moments when unable to be with loved ones at the most devastating times. I absolutely recognise that the events of recent days have made this even more painful.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the top priority for my team and for me personally has been to assist constituents who need our help, for example, ensuring the repatriation of local people from abroad; securing financial aid for businesses; linking offers of PPE and staff accommodation to the local NHS; helping local emergency workers secure after-school provision for their children; enabling a local school to access meal vouchers for vulnerable children; assisting unwell constituents to obtain home-testing kits and supporting volunteers with their incredible efforts to help local communities.
This remains our focus now and for the weeks ahead: I will continue to do all I can from my position as a backbench MP to help the people of the Aylesbury constituency faced with this appalling pandemic.