Government scientist says rules 'apply to all' in apparent swipe at Dominic Cummings

'In my opinion they are for the benefit of all,' says Professor Jonathan Van-Tam

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Saturday 30 May 2020 17:56 BST
Jonathan van-Tam:' The rules are clear and they have always been clear. In my opinion they are for the benefit of all, and they apply to all'

The deputy chief medical officer has insisted that lockdown rules "apply to all" in a swipe at the prime minister's top adviser Dominic Cummings.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was pressed on whether those in authority should set an example to the public on obeying the restrictions amid an ongoing row over whether Mr Cummings breached the rules by travelling 260 miles to his parents' farm in County Durham.

The senior medic made his feelings clear on the matter at the daily Downing Street press conference, saying: "In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

"In my opinion they are for the benefit of all. In my opinion they apply to all."

His comments are the clearest sign of disquiet among experts over Mr Cummings' actions, which sparked an outpouring of anger from the public, opposition MPs and even senior Conservatives.

Durham Police said Mr Cummings' may have breached the rules with a separate drive he made to Barnard Castle while staying in the area but concluded that no further action would be taken.

Asked about Mr Cummings, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Dominic Cummings gave a very extensive explanation of his behaviour on Monday and answered all questions in relation to that.

"The prime minister accepted that explanation and on that basis kept him in post and that remains the position."

Earlier, one scientist said the "Cummings affair" could impact trust in the authorities issuing the rules.

Professor Robert West, a member of the behavioural scientists subgroup which advises the government, said: "Trust in authority telling you to do things is very important when it comes to people adhering to those rules.

"This is going to become even more important as we move to a situation where it's not everybody having to do it, it's people who have drawn the short straw."​

He said that "when people see something like the Cummings affair... that's not a recipe for trust."

Elsewhere, it emerged that former prime minister Theresa May had told her constituents that Mr Cummings had failed to comply with the "spirit" of the rules.

In a message, seen by The Mirror, Ms May said: "What this matter has shown is that there was a discrepancy between the simple messages given by the government and the details of the legislation passed by Parliament.

“In these circumstances I do not feel that Mr Cummings followed the spirit of the guidance.

“I can well understand the anger of those who have been abiding by the spirit of the guidance given by the government and expect others to do so."

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