UK climate minister Alok Sharma has been accused of hypocrisy for flying to at least 30 countries this year and not isolating afterwards.
The president of the COP26 climate conference, which will be held in Glasgow later this year, has travelled tens of thousands of miles in preparation for the global environment summit.
It has been reported Mr Sharma visited at least six ‘red list’ countries but was given a ministerial exemption from hotel quarantine each time.
The Daily Mail revealed he was also able to avoid having to isolate at home following ‘amber list’ trips.
Travellers returning from countries on the ‘red list’ are forced to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine and pay more than £1,700.
However, the government regulations include a series of exemptions to spare isolation from workers deemed to be carrying out essential work, including ministers.
Downing Street defended president Alok Sharma’s international travel and said it was within the rules for him to avoid quarantine on his return to the UK.
‘One rule for them and one rule for us’
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the “optics” of reports of Alok Sharma flying to 30 nations in seven months are “it’s one rule for them and another rule for us”.
Asked on Sky News about the government minister’s flights abroad and lack of self-isolation, the Labour MP said: “Well, the optics are very clear – it’s one rule for them and another rule for us, whether it’s Dominic Cummings, whether it’s Matt Hancock, whether it’s Alok Sharma.
“Of course some international travel is required, but this amount of international travel when you’re climate change minister feels to me bizarre, and feels to not be setting the example.”
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the reports “undermines the effort” that people have to make.
He told Sky News: “We’ve all got used to having meetings with people in different parts of the world without needing to travel around the world to do it.
“And when we’re trying to persuade people to make the changes they need to make, we need to make, in our daily lives, transport, in our own homes, in the way that we think about the contribution we can make, we need the people at the very top to be demonstrating that they are doing that too, not thinking that that is for other people to carry that burden.”
‘Leading climate negotiations’
COP26, the United Nations climate change conference, will take place in Glasgow this October and November.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As COP president, Alok Sharma is leading climate negotiations with countries including major emitters to cut emissions and secure ambitious action ahead of the COP26 summit.
“The majority of this work is done remotely but some travel to key countries for face-to-face talks is essential.
“He has secured ambitious action as a result of the discussions he has had. For example, immediately following his visit to Japan and South Korea the governments there committed to ambitious net zero targets, which was a key ask from the UK.
“Ministers conducting essential travel such as this are exempted from quarantine, as set out in the rules.”