The Health Secretary has pledged to speak to the Treasury about whether fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown should be reviewed.
Matt Hancock made the promise at the daily Downing Street press conference which was dominated by questions relating to the ongoing row over the Prime Minister’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings travelling to Durham with his wife and child despite lockdown restrictions.
Mr Hancock, who was responding to a question from a member of the public, vowed to give a “full answer” in writing and promised to make an announcement on the issue at a future press conference.
Reverend Martin Poole, from Brighton, asked: “Will the Government review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown?”
Mr Hancock, who had reminded viewers a few moments earlier that ministers do not see the public’s questions in advance, replied: “It’s a very good question and 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 have had all the way through this.
“And so, I think, especially, coming from a man of the cloth, I think 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 we’ll make sure that we write to you with a full answer, and make an announcement from this podium. I think we can make that commitment.”
Speaking to the PA news agency after the press conference, Rev Poole said: “It wasn’t much of an answer was it?
“I understand that Matt Hancock wouldn’t have the information at his fingertips and I hope they do look into it and come back with a response.”
Asked why he felt compelled to ask the question, he said: “I like many, many other people in the country feel a sense of unfairness about what’s been going on over the weekend and that the Government should be asked to abide by the same standards as the rest of us, and certainly if people are making journeys for similar reasons they shouldn’t be penalised for it.”
Following today's Downing St briefing it seems Government will review fines issued during lockdown for travel to childcare. This is one of many questions that must be answered after guidance was undermined by Ministers over the weekend. @pritipatel-I'd appreciate an urgent reply: pic.twitter.com/tcaLIAXXKs— Nick Thomas-Symonds MP (@NickTorfaen) May 26, 2020
Asked if he was hearing anger from local people or parishioners, Rev Poole said: “Certainly my social media feeds are completely full of people outraged at the unfairness of everything at the moment.”
Commenting on Mr Johnson’s handling of the situation, he said: “I think it’s been very unfortunate. I think the statement yesterday clarified things a little and it would have been better if he’d have done something clearer than that at the beginning. But it’s not been a very clear message, has it?”
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Rev Poole’s question needed an urgent answer from Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Amid reports no formal review would be carried out, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “It’s now been made incredibly difficult to police vital public health guidance, as this flip-flop over fines shows.
The Treasury and the Home Office referred the PA news agency to the Department of Health and Social Care, which, when contacted, said it had nothing further to add to Mr Hancock’s comments.