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Sun, 27 September 2020

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Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick defends 150-mile trip to family home during coronavirus lockdown

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick defends 150-mile trip to family home during coronavirus lockdown

Robert Jencrick his decision to travel to his home in Herefordshire (PA)

3 min read

Robert Jenrick has defended making a 150-mile journey to his family home, despite telling the country to stay indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Communities Secretary has come under fire after it emerged he made the journey from London to the Herefordshire property, where his wife and children live.

That is despite his own website claiming they split their time between a flat in Westminster and a home in his Newark constituency.

Official government guidance says people should only leave their homes for “essential journeys”, and that “does not include visits to second homes”.

But in a statement, Mr Jenrick said: “My house in Herefordshire is the place I, my wife and my young children, consider our family home. My family were there before any restrictions on travel were announced.

“As Secretary of State for MHCLG (the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) I have been working in London on ministerial duties, putting in place a system to shield the group most vulnerable to coronavirus and organising the response at a local level.

“Once I was able to work from home it was right that I went to do so, to be with my wife, and also to help care for my three young children. By staying at home we protect the NHS and help save lives.”

He added: “I will be staying at my family home until Government advice changes, or if I’m needed in person in Westminster before the Parliamentary session resumes after the Easter recess."

Mr Jenrick also got the backing of Number 10, after the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has set out in two different statements the reasons for the journeys which he made, and we’re confident he complied with the social distancing rules.”

A separate story in The Guardian revealed the minister had also been seen visiting his parent's house in Shropshire at the weekend.

But the Cabinet minister defended his actions, saying in a tweet: "For clarity - my parents asked me to deliver some essentials - including medicines.

"They are both self-isolating due to age and my father's medical condition and I respected social distancing rules."

The government guidance states you should not visit anyone who lives outside your own home, including elderly relatives, but that you are allowed to "leave your house to help them, for example by dropping shopping or medication at their door”.

Asked if it was ok for Mr Jenrick to be travelling across the UK for work, the PM’s spokesman added: “Like everybody else ministers have been told to work form home wherever possible and not make unnecessary journeys.

"As part of the coronavirus response there will be occasions when ministers have no option but to work from Whitehall. 

"In the event this is required and the rest of their household is living elsewhere, it's not an unnecessary journey for them to travel to rejoin their family."

They added: "The same rules apply to ministers as they do to everyone, people should not travel for work unless they are unable to work from home, and social distancing rules should be followed."

Mr Jenrick also won the backing of Paul Cosford, emeritus director of Public Health England, who told the BBC “it sounds as if what he did was within one of the four guidelines”.

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