Dominic Cummings row hit public trust, says Welsh minister

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Media caption,
Dominic Cummings: "I don't regret what I did... people may well disagree"

The "circus" of the Dominic Cummings row has led to a "loss of public trust", Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

The prime minister's chief adviser said on Monday he did not regret driving 260 miles from London during lockdown.

Mr Cummings said he acted "reasonably" and within the law.

The health minister said he would have resigned if he had been caught in a similar row to Dominic Cummings.

On Monday, at a press conference, Mr Cummings revealed he had not told Boris Johnson when he decided to take his family to County Durham after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms.

Mr Cummings said he realised the family would have been left without childcare in London if, like his wife, he had fallen ill.

Conservative junior minister Douglas Ross resigned on Tuesday, saying Mr Cumming's view of the government guidance was "not shared by the vast majority of people".

In Wales, Preseli Pembrokeshire Conservative MP Stephen Crabb accused Mr Cummings of behaving "arrogantly" when the allegations first appeared.

Vaughan Gething has himself been involved in a lockdown row after he was photographed sitting eating chips in Cardiff Bay with his family.

It came days before Welsh Government advice changed, allowing people to sit and eat while exercising.

The Labour health minister what mattered to him was "not so much the fate of Dominic Cummings and his job".

"It's actually whether people across all four nations, including here in Wales, are going to continue to follow the rules to keep all of us safe", he told the daily Welsh Government press conference.

"And my real concern is the loss of public trust that comes from the ever changing circus of the last few days.

"And that's what really concerns me, so some clarity in the rules and expectations [is needed], and a clearer understanding the rules are there for all of us."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Vaughan Gething is Welsh Labour's health minister

Mr Cummings has said that he drove to Barnard Castle to test his ability to drive back to London, after experiencing loss of vision due to coronavirus.

Asked if Mr Gething would recommend driving 30 miles to test his eyesight, he replied: "No."

The health minister said if it had emerged that he himself had driven a long way because he was worried about his son, he would have had to resign or would have been sacked.

He told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers: "Say my mum lived in Barmouth and I had driven from just outside Cardiff to Barmouth, because I was worried about my son, and I'd stayed on the edge of her property to do so."

"I don't think I'd have lasted the end of the day once that story had broken."

After Mr Gething was photographed eating chips in Cardiff Bay, First Minister, Mark Drakeford defended Mr Gething saying that subsequent changes in the exercise guidance allowing eating had nothing to do with the story.

Conservative Senedd member Darren Millar had asked Mr Drakeford when Mr Gething would be removed. Mr Gething said he broke no rules.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stood by his advisor. Conservative Wales Office Minister David TC Davies tweeted at the weekend that Mr Cummings had given a "full explanation" and had acted "within the rules".

Robin Millar, Tory MP for Aberconwy, said he expressed constituents concerns to the PM. "He has made a decision and I respect that and support him."

Rob Roberts, Conservative MP for Delyn, said: "I believe that he seemed to be entirely acting in the best interests of his child as a responsible husband and father."

'Damaging'

But Stephen Crabb said he thought "Dominic Cummings was wrong to arrogantly brush away the allegations when they first appeared. He just made matters worse".

"I would have preferred to see the Cabinet Secretary do a proper inquiry into the allegations and for Cummings to step aside to allow that to happen. But that hasn't happened," he said, adding he would be sharing "the strength of feeling that exists in Pembrokeshire" with the PM.

One Welsh Conservative source questioned why so much political capital was being spent on Dominic Cummings, saying his position was being called into question with the passing of "each minute and hour".

"Every man, woman and child can get their head around it," he said. "That's why it's so damaging, it's so simplistic".

The source did not see how the prime minister could sack Mr Cummings, but speculated it could be "his position becomes untenable and Cummings walks away".