No10 defends refusal to review fines given to parents seeking childcare during lockdown

Downing Street has defended its decision to not review fines given to parents travelling for childcare during lockdown after Matt Hancock said he would "look into it".

A Number 10 spokesman said the enforcement of fines is a matter for police.

Hopes had been sparked that fines could be refunded after the health secretary, responding to a question at Tuesday evening's coronavirus press conference, said it was "perfectly reasonable" for ministers to consider a review.

Mr Hancock was asked about a potential review by Martin, a vicar from Brighton, who was seemingly making reference to a trip made by the PM's chief aide Dominic Cummings from London to Durham.

Mr Cummings has defended his actions, claiming he was in an exceptional circumstance and travelled to his parents house in order to be closer to childcare, should he and his wife become incapacitated by Covid-19.

The advisor has received the backing of Boris Johnson and several other Cabinet ministers, leaving many to wonder whether lockdown rules were open to interpretation.

“Will the government review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown?” vicar Martin asked.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he would "talk to my Treasury colleagues" to work out whether the £30 fines could be refunded.

But after the press conference, a Downing Street source said the fines would not be reviewed.

On Wednesday, the prime minister's spokesman it was up to police whether to enforce fines.

The spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We’re confident that the police will use their common sense and discretion, they have been very clear throughout that they will explain, encourage and finally enforce fines are always used by police as a last resort.”

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said he had learnt that "the government doesn't think that it's going to have to pay any of those fines back, or there's anything to review".

It follows a tough few days for the government after it was revealed Mr Cummings apparently flouted lockdown rules when he had coronavirus symptoms.

In a press conference on Monday he said he believed he acted "reasonably" and within the law by making the journey, adding how he only made the trip due to fears over a lack of childcare if he and his wife became too ill with Covid-19 to look after their four-year-old son.

Mr Cummings added he also made a trip to Barnard Castle - some 30 minutes away from where he was staying - while in County Durham to test his eyesight, which he felt had been affected by the respiratory disease, and he wanted to go for a test drive before returning with his family to London.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council has confirmed forces have no plans to conduct a review of fines issued for people travelling for childcare.

A spokesman said: “We have no plans to conduct a review of fines issued for people travelling for childcare.

“As the legislation included accessing childcare as one of the reasonable excuses for leaving home it is very unlikely that a significant number of fines would have been issued in such circumstances.

“Policing’s approach has been to engage, explain, encourage and only enforce as a last resort, this has been promoted consistently since the introduction of the restrictions.

“If anyone believes they have been issued a fine in error – for any reason – they can challenge it at court.”