School closures: Alok Sharma outlines government policy
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The president of the UK’s upcoming climate change conference has come under fire for travelling to more than 30 countries in seven months. Mr Sharma visited many countries on the red list but he has managed to use an exemption for ministers to avoid quarantine on his return.
The Government said face-to-face meetings are “crucial” ahead of the COP26 climate summit but Mr Sharma has come under fire for jetting around the world and ignoring the Covid rules.
The former BBC presenter, John Humphrys, wrote: “[…] has Mr Sharma and his team never heard of Zoom?
“Some of us (I’m one) would prefer root canal surgery to Zoom ‘meetings’ but it can’t be denied they work.
“Even the most fuddy-duddy of our civil servants and banking bosses have discovered that during our endless lockdowns.
“No, Mr Sharma has spent seven months jetting around the world ignoring the rules safe in the knowledge that they did not apply to him.”
In his latest column on the MailOnline, he added: “It might help if they each splashed out on a little placard to hang on their office wall with the reverse of the hypocrite’s charter printed on it.
“It would read: ‘Don’t do as I say. Do as I do’.”
Opposition parties also accused Mr Sharma of hypocrisy.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford called his itinerary “inexplicable” and said the Government should “demonstrate that we too mean business” in tackling climate change if they want the public to follow suit.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardin added it was “completely and utterly irresponsible” for the minister to come back from red list countries without quarantining.
Ms Jardin told the BBC: “Again this Government is making up a rule to suit this Government and not other people.
“What about all the families who would love to be in the room for the Christening of a grandchild or the wedding of a relative across the world?
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“They would love to be in the room and they are not there.
“The rest of us the rest of the time have learned to make use of the electronic facilities that are there, the advances in technology.
“This Government is losing touch completely with what the actual needs, demands and priorities of the ordinary people in this country are.”
The Daily Mail claimed Mr Sharma held a meeting with Prince Charles days after returning from Bangladesh – a red list country – before going on a visit to a primary school.
Mr Sharma is currently in Brazil – also a red list country – and tweeted he is having “constructive meetings”.
Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson for COP26, said Mr Sharma had travelled to meet “key players and negotiate success for us all” and was doing “vital work”.
The Government spokesperson said: “Helping the world tackle the climate emergency is an international priority for the Government.
“Virtual meetings play a large part, however face-to-face meetings are key to success in the climate negotiations the UK is leading as hosts of COP26 and are crucial to understanding first-hand the opportunities and challenges other countries are facing in the fight against climate change.”
UK citizens are advised not to travel to red list countries “except in the most extreme of circumstances”.
Those travelling must by law quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £2,285 for one adult.
Breaking the law can result in a fine of up to £10,000.
However, ministers can claim an exemption from this rule to carry out “essential Government work”.
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