Boris Johnson faces grilling over top aide’s lockdown trip

UK Prime Minister accused of ‘ducking’ questions over child care to protect Dominic Cummings

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson answering questions from a select committee on the government's handling of the global Covid-19 pandemic in London on May 27, 2020.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / UK PARLIAMENT " - NO USE FOR ENTERTAINMENT, SATIRICAL, MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - EDITORS NOTE THE IMAGE HAS BEEN DIGITALLY ALTERED AT SOURCE TO OBSCURE VISIBLE DOCUMENTS
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire from high-ranking ministers in a national row over the conduct of his top adviser during the coronavirus lockdown.

Dominic Cummings drove 420 kilometres from London to Durham, breaching the rules he helped to create.

On Wednesday, parliamentary liaison committee chairman Bernard Jenkin asked Mr Johnson how much Mr Cummings's actions “undermined the moral authority of the government with the public”.

Mr Johnson said he did not want to add to comments he had already made on the matter.

“I, of course, am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period," he said.

Mr Johnson said he “totally understands” public indignation over the incident, but said it would be “much better if we could now move on and focus on the next steps”.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Conservative MP Bernard Jenkins asking a question to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is being grilled on the government's handling of the global Covid-19 pandemic in London on May 27, 2020.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / UK PARLIAMENT " - NO USE FOR ENTERTAINMENT, SATIRICAL, MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - EDITORS NOTE THE IMAGE HAS BEEN DIGITALLY ALTERED AT SOURCE TO OBSCURE VISIBLE DOCUMENTS
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Politicians urged him to provide clear advice to British parents suffering from Covid-19, with Labour MP Yvette Cooper accusing him of “ducking” her question on child care to protect his aide.

The Cummings scandal has led many in Britain to seek clarification on how the country’s lockdown rules apply to parents who need to balance child care with social-distancing.

Mr Johnson was also forced to admit he did not read scientific papers on the pandemic.

“I don’t actually read the scientific papers except in exceptional circumstances,” he said, answering a question from Conservative MP Greg Clark.

“But what I do get is the direct digest from Sage,” which is the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Ministers sought further clarity on the government’s plan to introduce a contact-tracing programme through the National Health Service.

Mr Johnson said the government was considering “financial sanctions” for people who broke orders to stay at home after the NHS app showed they were exposed to the virus.

He was accused of seeking to avoid scrutiny after pulling out of an appearance in front of parliamentary committee leaders last year.

The committee is the only group with the authority to call the prime minister as a witness.

Mr Johnson’s appearance on Wednesday could hardly have come at a more fraught time.

He has been desperately trying to contain increasing fallout over Mr Cummings’s lockdown journey and faces a revolt within his own party over his aide’s future.

So far, 39 Conservative MPs have demanded that Mr Cummings resign.

Protestors holding placards calling for there resignation or sacking of Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings demonstrate outside the entrance to Downing Street in central London on May 27, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw his public support suffer the sharpest fall for a Conservative leader in a decade Wednesday as he prepared to be grilled by lawmakers over his handling of the Dominic Cummings scandal. Johnson has stuck by Cummings despite a public and political backlash over his top aide's travels to visit family despite the government's strict rules to curb the coronavirus pandemic. / AFP / Tolga AKMEN

The Conservative Party, which swept to power in a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, has spent significant political capital to keep Mr Cummings on as senior adviser.

Polling from research company Savanta showed a 20 per cent drop in Mr Johnson’s approval ratings over the four days leading to last Monday.

A survey by YouGov found 71 per cent of British people thought Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules and 59 per cent thought he should resign.

The number of Britain’s coronavirus infections and deaths remain the worst in Europe.

On Tuesday, the UK’s Office for National Statistics said 46,000 coronavirus-related deaths were reported since the outbreak began.

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