Fines given to people who have broken lockdown rules to access childcare will be “looked at” by the government, the health secretary has said.
At the government’s daily coronavirus press briefing, a vicar called Martin Poole from Brighton asked Matt Hancock: “Will the government review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown?”
The question came after days of criticism of Dominic Cummings, a senior Number 10 adviser, who travelled to Durham from London to seek childcare for his four-year-old child in case him and his wife became “incapacitated” by COVID-19.
Mr Hancock replied: “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.
“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 and we’ll look at it and if we can get your details I’ll make sure we can write to you with a full answer and make an announcement from this podium.”
Speaking after the conference to Sky News, Reverend Poole said his question was rooted in equality.
He said: “I think everything about this weekend and the kind of storm that’s going around… is about unfairness.
“I think people feel a very strong sense that its not right that certain people can behave in a way that the rest of us are not allowed to
“I’m very interested, as a vicar, in unfairness. There are all sorts of different inequalities in our society at the moment and this is just one of them that needs to be sorted out and particularly for any families that have travelled, probably worried they were doing the wrong thing, and were stopped and charged a penalty notice, that should definitely be, as far as I’m concerned, refunded if that was allowed.”
Reverend Poole added: “I don’t think any of us realised there was an element of discretion in these rules. It seemed to me very clear that it was about staying at home. And many millions of us have done that… so for me its about fairness.”
He also said that he “would like to see government ministers and advisers treated in the same way as everybody else,” and that “there’s a sense with government that they sometimes operate on a different set of principles to the rest of us”.
Mr Poole would not be drawn on calling for Mr Cummings to resign, saying it was a matter for him and the Prime Minister.
A government minister has resigned over Mr Cummings’s journey and dozens of Conservative MPs and more from other parties have publicly called for Mr Cumming’s resignation, after giving he gave a statement yesterday on his reasons for travelling to his parents’ estate in County Durham when the lockdown was in force.