One of the top government scientific experts made his view on the Dominic Cummings row very clear at the press conference this afternoon.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, was asked about Cummings' travel to Durham (and subsequently Barnard Castle) while the UK was in lockdown.

Prof Van-Tam replied: "In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

"In my opinion they are for the benefit of all and they apply to all."

Durham Police concluded that Cummings' trip to Barnard Castle 'might' have been a breach of lockdown measures but decided no further action was required.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was asked about the Cummings row

When asked about Dominic Cummings, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Dominic Cummings gave a very extensive explanation of his behaviour on Monday and answered all questions in relation to that.

"The Prime Minister accepted that explanation and on that basis kept him in post and that remains the position."

Earlier in the week Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to allow senior scientists to comment on Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip.

Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty were asked if people should follow Cummings' example.

But the PM stepped in before they could answer.

He said: "It's very important that our advisors are protected from being dragged into political controversy."

Dominic Cummings has faced calls to resign from both sides of the political aisle
Boris Johnson refused to allow them to answer a question on Dominic Cummings

In an extraordinary press conference on bank holiday Monday Cummings, who said he had not considered resigning, admitted it was "reasonable to say that other people would have behaved differently" - but said there were exceptional circumstances to justify the trip.

He denied breaking the rules, and claimed he had not broken the "spirit" of the rules, saying: "I did what I thought was the right thing to do."

However former Prime Minister Theresa May said she did not feel Cummings followed the "spirit" of the guidance.

Dominic Cummings with a police officer as he leaves his home in London

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Delivering her verdict in a statement to her constituents in Maidenhead, Berks, Mrs May said: “What this matter has shown is that there was a discrepancy between the simple messages given by the Government and the details of the legislation passed by Parliament.

“In these circumstances I do not feel that Mr Cummings followed the spirit of the guidance.

“I can well understand the anger of those who have been abiding by the spirit of the guidance given by the Government and expect others to do so."

A petition calling on him to be sacked has now received more than one million signatures on change.org.

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