Downing Street 'confident Robert Jenrick complied with social distancing rules' when visiting parents

·3-min read
Britain's Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain March 22, 2020.  Ian Vogler/Pool via REUTERS
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has defended accusations that he broke lockdown rules. (Picture: Ian Vogler/Pool via REUTERS)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has said he is confident Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick “complied with the social distancing rules” when visiting his elderly parents.

Jenrick was forced to defend accusations that he broke coronavirus lockdown rules twice by visiting his parents as well as travelling to his second home.

The Guardian reported that a witness told the newspaper they saw Jenrick visiting his parent’s Shropshire house at the weekend, which is 40 miles from his own, while the Daily Mail reported that he had travelled from his residence in London to a “second home” in Herefordshire during the lockdown.

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The Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, who is MP for Newark, has defended visiting his parents, saying he was delivering items including medicines.

He also told the Daily Mail that his house in Herefordshire is the place that he and his wife and young children consider their family home and his family were there before any restrictions on travel were announced.

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He told the newspaper: “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.”

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In a media briefing on Friday, 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.

“We’re confident that he complied with the social distancing rules.”

Paul Cosford, emeritus director of Public Health England (PHE), said the housing secretary seemed to act “within the guidelines” by visiting his parents.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said it was “very important for public confidence” that Mr Jenrick explained himself, but that if the Housing Secretary had delivered medicine to his parents, “clearly… it fits within the four exceptions”.

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The allegations come after Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood resigned from her position on Sunday after it emerged that she had visited her holiday home twice during the coronavirus lockdown.

Asked about Cabinet ministers commuting to and from London, the PM’s spokesman said: “Like everybody else, ministers have been told to work from 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.”

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