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Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick joins GMB to talk the boycott, devolution and Grenfell Tower

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick joined Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on today’s Good Morning Britain, six months after his last appearance.

Following Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s interview yesterday, which ended the 201 day government boycott of the programme, Robert spoke about the Prime Minister’s comments on devolution, the care home crisis and what is being done to make sure we never have another Grenfell Tower incident.

Asked why they had boycotted the programme, he said: “I am pleased to be back on the show Piers. My family watches it every morning...I have been doing media almost every week for the last six months. It has been widely reported that there have been some changes in Government in the last few days and the decision has been made to be back on your show and I am pleased to be here.”

On Boris Johnson allegedly describing devolution as a ‘disaster’ and ‘Tony Blair’s biggest mistake’, he said: “I think what the Prime Minister was saying was not that he was opposed to devolution per se, that he has actually always supported devolution and supports further devolution within England with more regional mayors, but what he is concerned about is the rise of nationalism and separatism in Scotland, and that that has ultimately been damaging for the UK.”

He continued: “What I think the Prime Minister was saying was that Tony Blair hoped [devolution] would put to bed the Separatist movement in Scotland. In fact, some people like Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have used it as a platform  to further that agenda. Anyone that cares about the union...and I know the Prime Minister does very strongly, sees that as disappointing, a source of sadness and something we should all fight against.On claims Scotland has performed better than England in its handling of the pandemic, Robert said: “If you look at the number of cases, care homes for example, there are questions to be answered about the Scottish performance. I am not saying we got everything right in England either but I think each of the governments have had successes and difficulties as well.”

On what he got right, he said: “This was a uniquely challenging situation but I think some things have gone well. As well as they could have done given the circumstances... I think we have done a great job protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society, like the rough sleepers… Today, there are 29,000 people in safe accommodation who would otherwise have either been on the streets exposed to the virus or in other precarious kinds of accommodation like sofa surfing.”

Asked why he didn’t take the same care with our elderly people and care homes, he said: “It has been an extremely challenging time for people living and those working in care homes. There are important lessons to be learnt from that which I hope have now been learnt. The way we have approached this second wave has been quite different. We now have much more access to PPE, which was a real challenge in the early days… I am hopeful that the 20 trials going on at the moment, enabling family and loved ones to visit people in care homes, will be a success and that will enable people to be able to do that at great scale across the country as we approach Christmas.”

On testing capacity and why testing isn’t coming in quicker, he explained: “We are doing that. There are the 20 pilots. I appreciate that seems like a very small number when there are tens of thousands of care homes across the country. But we have got to get it right and we don’t want to expose people living or working in care homes to the virus and make a big mistake.”

On the difference between this lockdown and the first, he said: “It is a different set of national restrictions. We never said we were replicating the national lockdown of the kind we experienced in March and April. This time we prioritised keeping education open… we also said that if you can’t work from home that you can go to work… it is quite different to last time but the scientists do believe that the restrictions we have put in place will make a difference.”On whether No 10 set a good example by having meetings with the Prime Minister that did not appear to be socially distanced, he said:  “No 10 is COVID-secure in the sense that they put in place the same procedures that we are asking workplaces to do across the country… The vast majority of the meetings that I have with the Prime Minister now are over Zoom…. Politics has adapted as the whole of the country has. But it is important that MPs take their responsibilities to their constituents and the country seriously, and that does mean that if they are healthy and willing to do so that they do come down to Parliament and participate in debates.”

On Grenfell and the fact that so many high rise apartment blocks are yet to be made completely safe, he said: “I share your frustration that it has taken us so long. With respect to the cladding that was on Grenfell tower, the most dangerous form, called ACM cladding, actually a lot of progress has been made in the last year. You could argue that it should have been made sooner but I have worked hard with my team to try to expedite that. 80% of the buildings that have that cladding have had it either remediated or have workers on site today doing that work.”

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