POLITICS
24/05/2020 09:47 BST | Updated 24/05/2020 09:51 BST

'Completely Untrue' Dominic Cummings Made Second Trip To Durham, Says Grant Shapps

Transport secretary tries to defend Boris Johnson's top aide amid fresh allegations about breaking the Covid lockdown.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aid Dominic Cummings 

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Reports that Dominic Cummings made a second trip to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown are “completely untrue”, transport secretary Grant Shapps has said. 

Defending Boris Johnson’s top aide following a second day of allegations he broke the rules, the cabinet minister claimed reports in the Mirror claiming Cummings returned to the north east were inaccurate. 

His interview comes amid intensifying pressure for the prime minister to sack Cummings, and after Durham Police issued a fresh statement last night contradicting Number 10 claims officers did not contact Cummings’ household. 

Cummings was diagnosed with Covid-19, but travelled 260 miles to stay with family. 

Downing Street claimed this was so the adviser could get help with childcare. 

But new claims emerged on Saturday that Cummings returned to the region and visited the small town of Barnard Castle.  

Pressed on the string of allegations piling up about Cummings’ flouting of lockdown rules while millions of families were told to stay at home, Shapps told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “I think there are more stories today that I’m seeing that he travelled backwards and forwards, accusations he then went back up to Durham again further times – I understand it is completely untrue.

“When he came back to London, which was on April 14 I see, he has remained in London since and hasn’t been back to Durham.

“There are all kinds of things that are being said here that are completely untrue.” 

Shapps admitted he did not know if Cummings visited Barnard Castle on April 12, as reported, but added that would have been after his 14-day isolation period.

“I certainly know that the first one you mention, of travelling back up (to Durham), I know that is not true.

“I’m afraid I don’t know (about Barnard Castle) but if that date was true that would have been outside the 14-day period. But I’m afraid I don’t have the information on that.

“But I do know it is not the case that he has travelled backwards and forwards, which seemed to be a major part of the stories I saw in the paper today.”

It came as Tory MPs began to turn on Cummings and called for his resignation. 

Former minister Steve Baker was the first to break ranks. 

“If he doesn’t resign, we’ll just keep burning through Boris’s political capital at a rate we can ill afford in the midst of this crisis,” he said.

“It is very clear that Dominic travelled when everybody else understood Dominic’s slogans to mean ‘stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’.” 

Baker said the issue was not “going to go away” and that Downing Street had to act. 

He said: “I’m afraid I just think this is the end of the road. I objected to Dominic going into Number 10 on the day Boris became PM, my colleagues weren’t with me. I think it’s worked out badly, as it was bound to do.

“Dominic’s tactics are out of place and he should go, and this moment has revealed that really he has ended up not abiding by the spirit at least of the slogans which he has enforced on the rest of the country.”

Damian Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, meanwhile, said in a tweet: “Dominic Cummings has a track record of believing that the rules don’t apply to him and treating the scrutiny that should come to anyone in a position of authority with contempt.

“The government would be better without him.”