Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has admitted he did not know the whereabouts of Boris Johnson’s senior adviser while he stood in for the Prime Minister.
Raab said when Johnson was taken into hospital with Covid-19 and he was left in charge, all he knew was that Dominic Cummings “was out of action because he had come down with coronavirus”.
He added that he “was not focused on his movements at all” and “wasn’t aware of them”.
Asked when he found out Cummings had left London and travelled to Durham, Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I’m not sure. But to be honest with you, when the story broke was when I first became aware of the detail of it.
“I just knew that he was out of action because he had come down with coronavirus and, given the situation we were in with the Prime Minister taken ill, and very seriously ill as it later emerged, I was just focused with the Government and with a great Cabinet team on making sure we continued to focus relentlessly on dealing with the virus.
“I mean I knew Dom was unwell and he was out of action, and obviously I wanted him and the Prime Minister to get well soon, but I wasn’t focused on his movements at all and I wasn’t aware of them.”
It emerged last weekend that in March, Cummings drove from his London home to his parents’ farm in County Durham with his wife – who had coronavirus symptoms – and his son.
In a public statement, the PM’s chief adviser explained he decided to make the trip because he felt it would be better to self-isolate in a place where he had options for childcare if required, and insisted he had acted “reasonably” and within the law.
He added that he had made a 50-mile round-trip to Barnard Castle with his wife and child 15 days later to test his eyesight before embarking on the longer journey back to London.
On Friday, Durham police said it had concluded Cummings might have broken lockdown rules, but it would have been a “minor breach”.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat has added his name to a growing list of Conservative MPs “frustrated” by the situation surrounding Cummings.
He told the same programme on Sunday: “I’m not going to answer for the Government, I’m not going to defend the Government in that way.
“The Prime Minister has made his decision. You know, you can see the effect of it, you don’t need me to tell you, you can see how people have reacted to it and I’ve written to the people I’m privileged enough to represent to give them my views,”
Asked what he told his constituents in his letter, Tugendhat said: “I said I can understand the frustration but it is fundamentally up to the Prime Minister and it is going to be up to all of us to express our views.”
But Tugendhat added the decision on whether Cummings keeps his job is ultimately one for Johnson.
“I really think that the thing we’ve got to do, if the Prime Minister is adamant that he wishes to keep an adviser or not – fine, that fundamentally is their decision and they have to bear the consequences of it.
“But what I really want to see them doing is to be making sure that we work to deliver an economy that works for as many businesses as possible.”