Matt Hancock said fines against people for childcare reasons might be refunded and minutes later Downing St shut him down

James Besanvalle
Wednesday 27 May 2020 08:00
news

The government has shut down talk of refunding the fines issued to people travelling for similar reasons as Dominic Cummings.

It all started when Reverend Martin Poole addressed Matt Hancock at the Tuesday evening daily coronavirus press conference.

Poole asked:

Will the government review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown?

To which Hancock responded:

We do understand the impact and the need for making sure that children get adequate childcare. That is one of the significant concerns that we’ve had all the way through this and so I think especially coming from a man of the cloth that is perfectly reasonable to take away that question.

I’ll have to talk to my Treasury colleagues before I can answer it in full. We’ll look at it and if we can get your details, we’ll make sure that we write to you with a full answer and make an announcement from this podium. I think we can make that commitment. 

But soon after the press conference, Sky News deputy political editor Sam Coates revealed a government adviser confirmed there would be no "formal review" of lockdown fines.

Coates claimed:

I understand that senior figures in other departments weren't aware that Mr Hancock was going to say that and Number 10 weren't that impressed, and within minutes the special adviser for Matt Hancock was calling round to make clear no such thing as a formal review was underway.

The steer from [the] government now is that there will be no change in government policy on that.

Following this news, Reverend Poole said it was “disappointing” and families facing these fines would be “aggrieved” at the decision not to review them:

The vicar’s question came about after Dominic Cummings made the decision to follow his “parental instinct” and drive his wife and son from their home in London to his parents’ home in Durham.

This was because his wife was ill with coronavirus-like symptoms and he claimed he was concerned about potentially not being able to care for his child if both parents got seriously ill.

Although Cummings denied breaking any official rules, many said the drive went against “the spirit of the lockdown”.

On the vicar’s reasoning for asking the question, Poole said the recent actions of Dominic Cummings was “galling”:

If the government starts saying it’s okay to interpret rules and laws – and the people who have had penalty notices have broken the law – if we are all being told we can use our instincts as to whether we can abide by the law, that’s an increasingly serious thing for the future.

Many have called for Dominic Cummings to resign, but he’s said he won’t and won’t offer an apology either.

Pundits warn this latest incident is likely to undermine the government’s lockdown messaging, and over 40

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