“Codswallop”: Fury at ‘lockdown busting’ Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick grows

The row over the Cabinet minister accused of breaking lockdown rules escalated last night after neighbours rubbished claims that the mansion where he is staying is his main home. 

David Churchill  www.dailymail.co.uk

The row over the Cabinet minister accused of breaking lockdown rules escalated last night after neighbours rubbished claims that the mansion where he is staying is his main home. 

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, a key player in the Government’s coronavirus response, claimed he had not flouted his own advice by travelling 150 miles to the Herefordshire property because it was the family home. 

But one of Mr Jenrick’s close neighbours described claims this address was his primary home as ‘codswallop’. 

The Daily Mail has been told the Jenricks spend most of their time at their £2.5million townhouse in London, where the children attend school. 

The Newark MP also states on his website that he lives ‘in Southwell near Newark, and London’ – with no mention of Herefordshire. 

Neighbours at the £1.1million Herefordshire residence insisted they rarely saw him. One said: ‘We might see him on the odd weekend but the family are not even here every weekend, let alone full time. 

‘Mr Jenrick has had builders working on the house for much of the last three years.’ 

Neighbours at the £1.1million Herefordshire (St Peter and St Paul’s in Eye, Herefordshire) residence last night insisted they rarely saw him. One said: ‘We might see him on the odd weekend but the family are not even here every weekend, let alone full time’

Another neighbour confirmed builders had been a regular fixture at Eye Manor, which Mr Jenrick bought in 2009 and is 120 miles from his constituency. 

They said: ‘It’s a fact the family come here occasionally at the weekend, but they do not live here year-round. 

‘The children are at school in London for one thing, and both parents have demanding jobs that they could not do from here ordinarily, one would think. 

‘I suppose you could say this house is more like their holiday home.’ 

A Government source confirmed Mr Jenrick had ‘moved his family to his second home’. 

Another source close to the family in the capital said they lived at their Westminster address during the week. The distinction matters as the Government issued lockdown instructions on March 23 stating people should not visit second homes ‘for isolation purposes or holidays’. 

But Mr Jenrick travelled to his second home from London on March 29 following a press conference he gave in Downing Street. 

He has also faced criticism after it emerged he visited his parents another 40 miles away last weekend in a Shropshire village. 

Mr Jenrick said he was dropping off medicine and food and did not enter their home. But he has previously urged people to rely on the NHS for delivering medicines. 

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘The Secretary of State set out in two different statements the reasons for the journeys that he made and we are confident he complied with the social-distancing rules.’ 

But Mr Jenrick’s opposite number in the Shadow Cabinet, Labour MP Steve Reed, believed the minister had still not explained why he needed to travel across the country from London. He said: ‘It would appear he could have stayed self-isolating with his family in London to prevent that further travel.’ 

Former defence minister and Tory MP for neighbouring Broxtowe, Anna Soubry, tweeted: ‘He totally ignored his own instruction to #stayhome which he repeatedly said in media interviews and from the No10 podium. 

‘It smacks of arrogance and senior ministers must practise what they preach.’ 

Mr Jenrick is understood to have claimed his family moved to Herefordshire on March 20, before lockdown rules were announced. 

The 38-year-old faced controversy when he ran for his Newark seat in a 2014 by-election after declining to mention his and his City lawyer wife’s £6million property portfolio, which includes a £2.3million flat in Marylebone, central London.

He presented himself as a ‘father, local man, son of a secretary and small businessman and state primary school-educated’ candidate. 

His party CV omitted to say he went to a £13,000-a-year private secondary school. At the time, he promised to move his family to Newark, saying he was ‘almost sure’ he would sell the Herefordshire house. 

Despite also having a rented property in his constituency, which he bills taxpayers £2,000 a month for, locals have told the Mail they do not see him as much as they would like. Last night Mr Jenrick declined requests for further comment. 

On Thursday 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… putting in place the system to shield the group most vulnerable to coronavirus. 

‘Once I was able to work from home it was right I went home to do so and be with my wife and help care for my three young children. 

‘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.’