ITV’s Robert Peston was cut off from the live broadcast after he questioned Matt Hancock on Dominic Cummings. The senior adviser has come under fire since he travelled to Durham from London during the lockdown. Mr Peston asked: “You and your wife tested positive for COVID-19, you have three young children but you chose to stay at home in London. What is the relevant difference between you and Dominic Cummings?”
Speaking at Downing Street, Mr Hancock said: “The relevant difference Robert is that we had childcare readily available at home and Mr Cummings didn’t.”
The Health Secretary then quickly moved on to the next question from another journalist.
Afterwards Mr Peston took to Twitter to hit out at the exchange calling the response “confusing”.
The ITV man said: “As I just mentioned at the Downing St press conference, Matt Hancock and wife both tested positive with Covid-19, they have three young children and they stayed home in quarantine in London. I asked health secretary what is the “relevant” difference between him and Dominic Cummings.
Robert Peston was cut off by Matt Hancock during the daily briefing
Matt Hancock hit out at Robert Peston
“And he said he had available childcare.
“But I honestly don’t understand why if – like Cummings and Mary Wakefield – he and his spouse were both ill, he had greater access to childcare than they did. It all remains very confusing.”
Former Labour MP Kate Hoey also wrote on Twitter: “Great put down by Matt Hancock of Peston.”
It comes as Boris Johnson is facing Tory fury over the actions of his senior aide Dominic Cummings, with one minister quitting in protest at the adviser remaining in his Number 10 post.
Douglas Ross, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland, said on Tuesday that he could not remain in government after hearing Mr Cummings’ efforts to defend his trip from London to Durham despite the coronavirus lockdown.
Dominic Cummings explained why he broke the lockdown rules
Dozens of Conservative MPs have said Mr Cummings should go despite ministers seeking to protect the controversial adviser.
Efforts to defend Mr Cummings’ actions even led Health Secretary Matt Hancock to indicate that fines levied on parents flouting lockdown rules due to childcare concerns could be reviewed.
In his resignation statement Mr Ross, the MP for Moray, said: “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the Government.
“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the Government was right.”
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Dominic Cummings timeline
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw added his voice to dozens of Tory MPs who called for the aide to quit or be sacked by the Prime Minister.
Downing Street insisted the PM had not split the Government by backing Mr Cummings.
But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio 2 that his own postbag showed “many people still disagree” with Mr Cummings’ actions.
Critics accused Mr Cummings of undermining the Government’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, which has so far been linked to more than 47,300 deaths in the UK.