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Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick defends delivering medicine to elderly parents' Midlands home

Wolverhampton | Coronavirus | Published:

The Wolverhampton-born MP today faced criticism for travelling from his family home to make the delivery.

Wolverhampton-born housing secretary Robert Jenrick faced criticism today for delivering medicine to his parents in the Midlands amid the lockdown

The Housing Secretary has defended visiting his elderly parents during the coronavirus lockdown, saying he was delivering items including medicines.

Wolverhampton-born Robert Jenrick said he respected social distancing when he dropped off medicines and other essentials to his parents, who are self-isolating at their home.

While the Government’s guidelines 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”.

The rules from the Government, viewable here, state you should only leave the house for:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

A witness told the Guardian they saw Mr Jenrick visiting his parent’s Shropshire house at the weekend, which is 40 miles from his own.

Mr Jenrick grew up in the Shifnal and Ludlow areas of Shropshire and went to independent Wolverhampton Grammar School before attending Cambridge University.

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Later, in a tweet, 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.

Robert Jenrick on a visit to a housing scheme in Aldridge last year

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Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that Mr Jenrick had travelled from his residence in London to a “second home” in Herefordshire during the lockdown.

The minister told the paper: “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.”

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 and MP for Newark, has spoken at the daily Downing Street press conferences and is key member of the Cabinet.

Paul Cosford, emeritus director of Public Health England (PHE), said it sounded like Mr Jenrick had remained within the four “clear” guidelines while 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 and it fits within the four exceptions”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Cosford said: “Our guidelines are quite clear – I’m not going to comment on any individual whoever they are – but our guidelines are quite clear.

“We need to stay at home except in one of four different circumstances.

“One of those is to take exercise once a day with people from our household, one is to do essential shopping for food and medicines and that does include helping to get those to other people where it is absolutely required and there isn’t another way of doing that, one is essential health care and then the fourth is about being able to go to work if you’re in an essential job for the response or you absolutely cannot do your work at home.

“I can’t comment on Mr Jenrick, it sounds as if what he did was within one of the four guidelines to me, but others will obviously have to think about that more.”

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.

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