The Housing Secretary has again been accused of flouting lockdown rules by travelling from his London residence to his ‘second home’ in Herefordshire, days after he was also spotted visiting his parents.
Robert Jenrick has defended escaping 150 miles to his £1.1million mansion, where his family are staying, as the pandemic rages on.
This comes after he urged others to stay at home for “all bar the most essential activities”, and all travel to second homes was banned.
The cabinet minister said he and his wife Michal Berkner, a partner at City law firm Cooley LLP – and children consider the Grade I listed country retreat their family home and he had moved back there after he was no longer needed in Westminster.
Mr Jenrick also owns a £2.5million townhouse less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament while also renting a £2,000-a-month property in his Newark constituency – which he bills to the taxpayer.
He was previously forced to explain why he had been seen on his elderly parents’ front lawn, claiming he was delivering medication and other supplies.
Referring to him moving back to Herefordshire, Mr Jenrick told the Daily Mail his family “were there before any restrictions on travel were announced”.
“I have been working in London on ministerial duties, putting in place the 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 home to do so and be with my wife and also help care for my three young children.”
He added that he would be staying at the family home until Government advice changes or he is needed in Westminster.
Mr Jenrick, who is the minister responsible for local government, has spoken at the daily Downing Street press conferences and is key member of the Cabinet.
On Sunday, Dr Catherine Calderwood resigned her position as Scotland’s chief medical officer after she visited her holiday home twice during the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Jenrick said he respected social distancing when he drove to his parents’ home who at 69 and 79 are highly vulnerable to the killer bug.
He had been spotted at the Shropshire residence – 40 miles from his own – last week by a witness who then informed The Guardian before it was reported on Thursday.
While the Government’s guidelines – released on March 23 – state you should not visit anyone who lives outside your own home, including elderly relatives, you are allowed to “leave your house to help them, for example by dropping shopping or medication at their door”.
It adds: “People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”
Tweeting in response to the Guardian story, Mr Jenrick said: “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.”
He included a link to The Guardian story in his tweet.
A Government source told the Mail the minister’s actions were “idiotic” though another said he had given a “full account of himself” and was backed by Downing Street.
Steve Reed MP and Labour’s new communities spokesman, said MPs need to “set an example to everyone”, adding if Mr Jenrick “can’t provide a very good explanation” he should “consider his position”.
The Friday before he visited his parents he tweeted: “If you are considering going out this weekend, please don’t, unless it’s for work (where you cannot work from home), health reasons, food shopping or exercise. We need to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
“There are going to be lots of people who would normally be planning a family get together or just getting out in the sunshine,” he added.