A cabinet minister has broken the lockdown rules twice, it emerged last night.
Robert Jenrick, a key player in the Government’s response to coronavirus, travelled 150 miles from London to his £1.1million second home in Herefordshire, where he is now living with his family.
He was also seen visiting his parents in Shropshire at the weekend, despite urging others to stay at home for ‘all bar the most essential activities’.
A source close to him defended the trip, saying he went to deliver food and medication and did not enter the house.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, pictured in Downing Street on March 29, has defended driving 150 miles last weekend to visit his parents in Shropshire despite the Covid-19 lockdown as he was delivering food and medication to his mother and father who are self isolating
On April 1, Mr Jenrick was appearing live on television from his Hertfordshire home
Mr Jenrick, pictured with his wife Michal Berkner, defended driving to his parents claiming he was dropping off medication and food – both of which are allowed under current guidelines
The Communities Secretary moved to his Grade I-listed Herefordshire mansion after travel to second homes was banned. He told the Mail that he and his wife and their three young children, consider the Herefordshire property to be the family home.
He owns a £2.5million townhouse less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament and rents a property in his Newark constituency, which he bills taxpayers £2,000 a month for.
On March 23 new instructions were issued warning people to remain at their primary residence and not visit second homes ‘whether for isolation purposes or holidays’.
It added: ‘People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.’
- It came as:
- Carrie Symonds thanked NHS workers after Boris Johnson was moved out of intensive care;
- Priti Patel warned police against being ‘heavy handed’ after a chief constable said his force could introduce roadblocks and search shopping trolleys;
- Police chiefs warned the public ‘your time is up’ as they vowed anyone caught heading off on an Easter getaway break or day tripping will be turned back;
- A Government scientific adviser said the country ‘cannot hide away forever’ from the disease and predicted that 80 per cent of people would get it;
- Dominic Raab urged people to ‘please stay home’ over the long Easter weekend, amid fears that sunny weather will encourage people to break the lockdown;
- A Government source said: ‘We have effectively taken the decision to extend the lockdown’;
- Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said almost a third of people worldwide who have had coronavirus may have shown no symptoms;
- Moves to offer MPs an extra £10,000 for their offices during the pandemic were condemned as an ‘outrageous waste of public money’;
- The Government extended its ‘overdraft’ with the Bank of England to finance its coronavirus spending spree;
- Foreign Secretary Mr Raab hinted NHS workers could be in line for a pay rise as the nation took part in the clap for carers event;
- Hopes were revived for a mass testing programme that could pave a way out of the lockdown;
- Universities said they needed a £2billion bailout to stave off ‘financial failure’ and collapse;
- Scientists said the virus has mutated into three distinct types;
- Matt Hancock launched a review into the health consequences of the lockdown after A&E attendances dropped to their lowest on record.
Mr Jenrick gave a press conference in Downing Street on March 29, at which he updated the nation on the latest virus advice, before travelling to his Herefordshire property, where he has given several media interviews via video link.
Last night a Government source branded his behaviour ‘idiotic’.
However, another No 10 insider said he had given ‘a full account’ of himself, adding: ‘We are backing him.’
Steve Reed MP, Labour’s new communities spokesman, said: ‘It’s vitally important that ministers follow the rules they are setting for everybody else. MPs need to set an example to everyone about the importance of not moving around the country and if Robert Jenrick can’t provide a very good explanation as to why these trips were necessary then he needs to consider his position.’
Mr Jenrick insisted Eye Manor in Herefordshire, built by an 18th century slave trader, is seen as the family home, rather than their house in Westminster, despite needing to be there most of the week for his work. And speaking to the Mail on Sunday in 2014 ahead of winning his Newark seat, he claimed the couple were ‘almost sure’ they would sell Eye Manor and move to his constituency.
Explaining his decision last night, he told the Mail: ‘My house in Herefordshire is the place I, my wife and my young children consider to be our family home and my 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. By staying at home, we protect the NHS and help save lives. I will be staying at my family home until Government advice changes or if I am needed in person in Westminster before the parliamentary session resumes after the Easter recess.’
Mr Jenrick’s American wife, Michal Berkner, is a partner at City law firm Cooley LLP.
Last night the Guardian reported a witness saw Mr Jenrick in the front garden of his parents, who are 79 and 69, at the weekend. It is about an hour’s drive north from his Herefordshire home, which he bought in 2009. 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.’
Writing in the Mail on Sunday last month, Mr Jenrick warned that Britons must ‘make big sacrifices – especially today, on Mother’s Day’.
He added: ‘It’s so important that we speak to our loved ones as much as we can – whether that’s FaceTime or a phone call.
‘But for now, we must practise social distancing in order to tackle the spread of the virus. We need to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, was forced to resign at the weekend after coming under fire for breaking rules by visiting her second home twice.
Mr Raab yesterday acknowledged the measures were ‘taking their toll’.
‘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.
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