Matt Hancock repeatedly refuses to say whether Dominic Cummings ‘did the right thing’

Health secretary says Boris Johnson’s adviser ‘was acting within the guidelines’

Matt Hancock refuses to say whether Dominic Cummings 'did the right thing'

Matt Hancock has repeatedly refused to answer whether Dominic Cummings “did the right thing” when travelling to Durham despite strict coronavirus restrictions.

The health secretary insisted Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser “was acting within the guidelines” and understood why some members of the public disagreed with him.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Hancock, however, sidestepped whether Mr Cummings did the “right thing” when asked six times by presenter Nick Robinson.

“I’ve answered this question before a couple of days ago and the prime minister has answered all these questions endlessly,” Mr Hancock said.

Challenged that Mr Johnson had “not answered the moral case of whether he did the right thing”, the health secretary said: “Well, I’ve said I think he was acting within the guidelines. I also understand why reasonable people might disagree with that.”

Putting the question to Mr Hancock again, Mr Robinson added: “What matters is not dodging the question I am asking you. These are your words – you say ‘duty’, you say ‘right thing’, you say ‘do your bit’ and what people are saying to you is Mr Cummings did none of those and whenever ministers are asked they dodge the question. So did he do the right thing?”

The cabinet minister replied: “Far from dodging the question, Nick, I’ve directly answered it because my judgement is that as has been told in great deal in public my view is that he followed the guidelines. I understand why some people don’t agree with that but that is my view.”

Responding to dozens of Tory MP calling on Mr Cummings to resign from his No 10 role and warnings that constituents will no longer follow lockdown rules, Mr Hancock also said the “vast majority of people will understand that it is in everybody’s interest” to do so.

Earlier Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the new contacting tracing programme to be launched in England on Thursday risked being undermined by prime minister’s continued support for Mr Cummings – despite considerable public anger.

Under the new system – viewed as vital in curbing the spread of the virus – people will be asked to isolate for 14 days if they come into contact with someone infected with coronavirus, even if they do not have symptoms. A team of tracers will contact anyone who has been within two metres of an infected person for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Ashworth said: “We need everybody to cooperate with this because it’s in all of our interests that this works, and I’m sorry, I’ve got to say it, it’s why I think Matt Hancock’s support of Dominic Cummings is really irresponsible.

“My worry is some people will think ‘Why should I stay at home for two weeks on my own when I feel fine, while this guy who’s Boris Johnson’s big pal in Downing Street can get away with travelling across the country to Durham?”’

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