By Chris York
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The transport secretary also said restrictions put in place by the government on March 23 should only be followed “to the best of your ability” and that it was “up to the individual” to make decisions on how best to follow them.
From March 23 until the slight easing of the lockdown earlier this month, the government’s instructions to the British public have been to stay at home for all but essential journeys such as food shopping or to buy medicines.
Opposition MPs have accused Number 10 of a “cover-up” and called for Cummings, Boris Johnson’s top aide, to resign after it emerged that he had driven 250 miles despite the guidelines on travelling.
They’re lying to us.
Ministers & experts.
Literally rewriting the lockdown rules before our eyes just to save the Prime Minister’s chief adviser.
How can anyone defend this Govt any more?
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 23, 2020
At Saturday’s press briefing, Shapps said: “The guidance says if you’re living with children keep following this advice to the best of your ability.
“However, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible depending therefore on circumstances.”
He continued: “It’s for an individual to make the decision ‘how do I make sure I’ve got enough support around the family’, particularly in the case you are referring to with a potential of both parents ending up being ill and having a young child to look after.”
Shapps said he did not know why this support could not have been provided by friends or family in London.
His comments drew widespread criticism on social media with accusations that they effectively amounted to a rewriting of lockdown rules.
The new message seems to be (from ministers) it’s ok to interpret the rules as you see fit (how might this affect behaviour)
From Harries it’s rather different, stay at home & isolate if you have the virus. Exception is when “there is extreme risk to life”
— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) May 23, 2020
Grant Shapps rewriting the rules in front of our eyes. https://t.co/iTHloRz3S8
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) May 23, 2020
Yes, we would. But we were told we couldn’t. That’s why we’re angry https://t.co/IsqDmIl1vp
— Claire Phipps (@Claire_Phipps) May 23, 2020
Earlier on Saturday, Cummings defended his actions, saying he “behaved reasonably and legally”.
His comments follow a statement from Downing Street which said the actions of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser were in line with guidelines, and reports that his family were spoken to by police were incorrect.
Dom Cummings followed the guidelines and looked after his family. End of story.
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) May 23, 2020
Elsewhere, Labour has written to the head of the civil service to call for an “urgent inquiry” into Cummings’ actions.
In a letter to Sir Mark Sedwill, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said: “The British people have made important and painful sacrifices to support the national effort, including being away from family in times of need.
“It is therefore vital that the Government can reassure the public that its most senior figures have been adhering to the same rules as everyone else.”