UK health minister says will consult colleagues on lockdown fines

LONDON (Reuters) - British health minister Matt Hancock said he would talk to colleagues about fines imposed on families for breaking lockdown rules, after a top government adviser received widespread public condemnation for his lockdown travel.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds a daily news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain May 26, 2020. Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Handout via REUTERS

Asked whether fines would be rescinded for those who had given childcare-related justifications for breaking the lockdown, similar to those made by government adviser Dominic Cummings, Hancock said the government would consider this.

“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,” Hancock said at the government’s daily news conference.

“I think that (it) is ... perfectly reasonable to take away that question. I’ll have to talk to my Treasury colleagues before I can answer it in full,” he added.

Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s closest aide, drove 250 miles from his London home with his wife and young son during lockdown, and while there made another trip to a local beauty spot, which he said was for the purpose of testing his eyesight.

He said on Monday he believed he had acted “reasonably” and within the law, and had no regrets about his actions.

Johnson said he was satisfied with his aide’s version of events.

However, in a poll conducted after Cummings sought to explain his actions, YouGov found 71% of people believed he had broken lockdown rules and 59% thought he should resign.

Police in England and Wales have issued more than 14,000 fines for alleged breaches of lockdown laws from March 27 to May 11, the period that included Cummings’ trips, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Hancock was questioned about the justification for fining others for breaching the rules by Martin Poole, a clergyman from Brighton.

“Everything about this weekend and the storm that is going on around this is about unfairness,” Poole told Sky News.

“I think people feel a very strong sense that it’s not right that certain people can behave in a way the rest of us are not allowed to.”

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, citing a government source, said Hancock had not announced a review of lockdown fines, but had instead meant he would pass on the concern to colleagues.

The government said it had nothing to add to Hancock’s comments.

Reporting by Paul Sandle, Kylie MacKellan, Will James and David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison