An SNP MP has asked the Prime Minister if he has looked in his inbox amid public anger over the Dominic Cummings row.
Pete Wishart urged Boris Johnson to apologise over the scandal and said the actions of his top adviser would weaken any future Covid-19 lockdown.
Appearing before the House of Commons’ liaison committee on Wednesday, the PM said he was “sorry” for the pain families around the country have been going through due to coronavirus.
But he said the best way to preserve public health messaging amid the pandemic is to “move on” from the controversy and refocus on tackling the virus.
Johnson suggested the SNP MP was making “party-political points” and claimed “a lot of the allegations” against Mr Cummings “turned out to be completely false”.
Johnson’s chief No 10 adviser held an extraordinary Downing Street press conference on Monday where he confirmed reports he had taken his wife and child on a 260-trip from London to Durham.
He said he had done this over fears he and his wife would become incapacitated from Covid-19 after she developed symptoms, with family in Durham who had offered to provide childcare to his young child.
And he further admitted to travelling on a 60-mile round trip on April 12 to beauty spot Barnard Castle with his family, on his wife’s birthday, claiming he had done so to test his eyesight for driving.
The special adviser maintained he had no regrets and had acted within the rules.
However, in the wake of his admissions, Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross resigned from his post, while Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw joined a raft of senior Tories in calling for Mr Cummings’ job.
Speaking on Wednesday, Wishart joked to the Prime Minister he was “brave” to continue to “stand by your man” and “sacrifice the credibility and popularity of your own government”.
The Perth and North Perthshire MP told Johnson: “You’ve done something I’ve never seen done in the 20 years I’ve been in the House.
“You’ve somehow managed to unite a nation in condemnation and indignation of your handling of Mr Cummings.”
Wishart highlighted polling suggesting 80% think the PM’s adviser broke lockdown rules, that 62% think he should be sacked, and 65% think his conduct will make people less likely to obey lockdown restrictions.
“Surely no man is more important than keeping this nation safe?” he asked.
The Prime Minister answered: “A lot of what was written and said over Saturday and Sunday was false in respect to my adviser.
“It wasn’t correct and I think he’s had the opportunity to clear the matter up, notwithstanding the various party-political points you may seek to make.
“And your point about the message – I respectfully disagree.
“I think, actually, the best way to clarify the message, the best way for people to understand what we need to do next, is for us all to move on and focus on what we’re doing.”
Wishart hit back: “Have you had a look at your inbox? My inbox like MPs across the UK is filled with people listing their sacrifices to follow the instructions you set.
“I have constituents who haven’t been able to see their grandchildren and families for months, people not being able to visit dying relatives or attend funerals.
“Do you know what this looks like for them? One rule for those at the heart of government and another rule for everyone else.
“He won’t say sorry, will you say sorry on his behalf?”
Johnson said: “Of course, I am sorry for the pain, as I’ve said, and the anguish and the heartbreak of so many people in this country.
“And by the way, there are people across government at every level who have been through exactly the same privations and difficulties.”
He called again for politicians to “set aside this row”, repeating that “a lot of allegations turned out to be totally false”.
One report Mr Cummings denied was that he had gone back to Durham again later in April following his return to work at Downing Street.
He claimed metadata on his phone would prove that he had been in London on the day he was claimed to have been elsewhere.
The Prime Minister was repeatedly pressed by Labour MP Meg Hillier on if he had seen this evidence, eventually saying that he had.
But he declined to commit to making it public, or to allow civil service chief, cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, to investigate it.
On April 12, Mr Cummings stated he had not gone into the town of Barnard Castle as reported by an eyewitness to two newspapers.
He said he and his family had merely walked briefly around the woods on the outskirts of the town before driving back to his family’s Durham cottage.
The eyewitness, retired teacher Robin Lees, has been interviewed by police over his claim he saw Mr Cummings and his family walking in the town by the River Tees on the day in question.
Johnson also rejected calls for Mr Cummings to face an inquiry over his actions.
The Prime Minister told the committee: “Quite frankly I’m not certain – right now – that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time.
“We are working flat out on coronavirus.”
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