Now Sharma bleats: My globetrotting’s no holiday
After ‘red list’ quarantine row, climate tsar defends flying to 30 countries
CLIMATE tsar Alok Sharma has tried to defend his globetrotting amid anger at the revelations he escaped hotel quarantine after visiting ‘red list’ countries.
The president of the Cop26 global environmental summit claimed ‘it’s certainly no holiday’ following reports he had flown to at least 30 countries for talks on agreeing green targets.
Speaking for the first time since the Daily Mail disclosed he had been exempted from self-isolation after going to six ‘red list’ destinations, he attempted to justify the need to travel tens of thousands of miles to prepare the ground for this autumn’s talks in Glasgow.
Asked why he had travelled by plane so much, he said: ‘It really matters to be able to look people in the eye and build those relationships with ministers, and that’s what I’m doing.’
He also tried to play down the glamour of his time abroad, saying he still had to undergo numerous Covid tests during his travels. He added: ‘You get tested before you go, you get tested when you arrive you get tested before you leave any of these countries.’
He insisted much of his time while travelling is spent in isolation, saying: ‘You will be taken to a hotel or to the British embassy compound, and you will wait there until your results come through.’
Mr Sharma’s aides said the closest he had come to a Caribbean beach on his visit to the region in spring was a glimpse through a car window.
They added that in Singapore bands were put around the wrists of members of his team on arrival, which they suspect were used to track their location.
In Tokyo, they were ordered not to leave a house in the British embassy compound, and meals including quiche, salad and soup were left for them.
‘I think they assumed we didn’t have very adventurous palates,’ he told The Sunday Times.
The former business secretary, 53, has come under fire for the number of flights he has taken since the start of the year in his attempts to thrash out deals with countries dragging their feet on zero carbon emissions targets.
Last week he travelled to South America, where he visited both Bolivia and Brazil, before returning to Britain on Friday.
Travellers forced to quarantine for ten days in a hotel room at a cost of £1,750 – which is rising to £2,285 this week – reacted angrily after learning the Cabinet minister was permitted to return to his £1.7million home in Caversham, near Reading, as soon as he got back to the UK.
Despite visiting six countries on the UK’s travel ‘red list’ – Qatar, the UAE, Bangladesh, Turkey, Bolivia and Brazil – Mr Sharma was given a ministerial exemption from hotel quarantine each time.
He has also been able to avoid having to isolate at home following trips to ‘amber list’ destinations.
Days after returning from Bangladesh, Mr Sharma met Prince Charles indoors without wearing a mask – then visited a primary school. Ordinary travellers face fines of up to £10,000 for breaking travel quarantine rules.
Justifying his jet-setting, Mr Sharma said: ‘I have every week a large number of virtual meetings, but I can tell you that having inincredibly
‘Flies to countries with abandon’
person meetings with individual ministers is incredibly vital and actually impactful. It makes a vital difference, to build those personal relationships which are going to be important as we look to build consensus.’
More than half of Mr Sharma’s journeys were over the winter and spring months at the start of the year when international travel from Britain was largely banned.
He went to several destinations in Africa in February, then to India and Nepal. In March, he went to Costa Rica in central America and Kenya, followed by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
In April, Mr Sharma went to South Korea and Japan, just days after a Covid state of emergency
was declared there, then in May he visited four European countries.
Criticising the Tory minister for avoiding quarantine, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Sarah Olney said last week: ‘As usual with this Government, it’s one rule for them and another for everybody else.
‘While Alok Sharma flies to red list countries with abandon, hard-working families can hardly see loved ones or plan holidays as the Government changes travel rules on the hoof.’
Paul Charles, of travel consultancy the PC Agency, added: ‘It’s astonishing how the Government think they are above the law and can create rules for themselves.’
Air travel is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which led some to question whether Mr Sharma could and should have held more ‘virtual’ meetings.
Not all of Mr Sharma’s 30 known visits abroad were return flights from the UK as, on occasion, he has gone to a cluster of countries on one trip.
But travel to and from all the countries on his list would stretch to 200,000 miles.
cLIMaTe conference minister alok Sharma tells us his globetrotting has been quite an ordeal.
he might have given himself a gargantuan carbon footprint, but it was all work, work, work. even in the caribbean the only glimpse of the beach the poor man had was from his car.
The Mail doesn’t doubt these were business trips. But why, in this age of conference calling, was it necessary to visit at least 30 countries in seven months?
also, why was he allowed to dodge quarantine rules that apply to the rest of us? and what on earth was he doing visiting a primary school and meeting Prince charles without even wearing a mask just after returning from a red-list country? Your Government made the rules, Mr Sharma. Is it really too much to ask for you to stick to them? n OUr immense pride in the Olympic success of Team GB stems not just from the stellar tally of medals but also from the variety of events in which there were podium finishes and the sheer diversity of the winners. In pool, velodrome, gymnasium and ring. On track, field, water course and beyond, competitors from all parts of this country, and every level of society, excelled. emerging from urban skate parks as well as expensive public schools, they came together in a tight fraternity and won admiration around the world. This truly was meritocratic Britain at its very finest.