Ripon and Skipton MP Julian Smith says Dominic Cummings' coronavirus claims are 'for the birds'

Ripon and Skipton MP Julian Smith has said the explosive claims made by Dominic Cummings about government mistakes during the Covid pandemic should not be taken too seriously.

Dominic Cummings, former Chief Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, giving evidence to a joint inquiry of the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees on the subject of Coronavirus: lessons learnt. Pic: PA

Speaking at a North Yorkshire County Council meeting today, Mr Smith said any notions that the former adviser to Boris Johnson was acting as an “objective observer” in his evidence to the government’s health and science committees yesterday was “for the birds”.

“I did not get on particularly well with Mr Cummings in government – in my view, he is not an objective observer,” Mr Smith, a former Chief Whip and Northern Ireland Secretary, said.

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“Having said that, obviously he makes an important point but I agree that this should be in the context of a whole range of other witnesses who have views.

“But the idea that he is objective about this is obviously for the birds.”

During a marathon seven-hour evidence session yesterday, Mr Cummings made a series of allegations about the government’s response to the pandemic and painted a picture of chaos and disarray within Number 10.

He said thousands of people died needlessly as a result of government mistakes and that the Prime Minister was “unfit for the job”, claiming he had ignored scientific advice and wrongly delayed lockdowns.

He also claimed Matt Hancock should have been fired for lying – something denied by the health secretary.

Mr Cummings said: “The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this.

“I would like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes at that.”

MP Julian Smith’s reaction to the revelations followed comments from West Skipton county councillor Andy Salloway who told today’s NYCC Skipton and Ripon Area Constituency Committee that he believed any evidence about the government’s handling of the virus outbreak should only be heard once it is over.

Councillor Salloway said Mr Cumming’s allegations yesterday were a “complete distraction” from the pressures of the pandemic still at hand.

He said: “We are still in a pandemic and surely the time to have a review of things is after the pandemic is done, not during it. It is a bit of an insult to all the people who have worked extremely hard to get us through this.”

Boris Johnson previously announced a full public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic is to be launched in Spring 2022 when more officials will be called as witnesses to give evidence.

The inquiry will aim to answer key questions such as why did the pandemic happen, who is to blame and what can be done to prevent it happening again.

The exact aims and remit will be announced closer to the start of the inquiry next year.