Jeremy Hunt: PM's father 'shouldn't be fined for shopping without face mask'

30 September 2020, 23:01 | Updated: 2 October 2020, 17:52

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Jeremy Hunt has told LBC Boris Johnson's father Stanley should not be fined after being pictured shopping without a face mask.

Stanley Johnson said he was "extremely sorry" after being snapped by the Mirror newspaper browsing the shelves of a newsagent in west London on Tuesday.

The 80-year-old former politician appeared to be breaking the rules of his son's government by not covering his mouth and nose with a face mask.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Mr Hunt said: "I think persistent offenders yes, but a first time offence by accident, a bit of British leniency."

Environment Secretary George Eustice also agreed that Stanley shouldn't be fined.

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn apologises for 'breaking rule of six' at dinner party

He told LBC: "My view is that fines should be reserved for people who are wilfully and repeatedly breaching the regulations we have in place.

"I don't think they are appropriate for people who may innocent errors or an oversight or forget something. I think in both [the case of Jeremy Corbyn] and the case of the Prime Minister's own father who was pictured without a mask, they both accepted that they were wrong and have apologised."

He added: "You have to step back and recognise that these are emergency measures, quite extraordinary in some ways, to tell people that they can't meet in groups of more than six, that you have to wear masks and so on.

"These are extraordinary emergency measures and the use of a financial penalty and a fine should be reserved for the most egregious cases."

The news comes after fines for failing to comply with guidance around face coverings were increased to £200 for first-time offenders last week.

Read more: PM warns of 'critical moment' as he urges public to stick to rules

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Stanley Johnson has apologised after being snapped not wearing a face covering while shopping
Stanley Johnson has apologised after being snapped not wearing a face covering while shopping. Picture: PA

Speaking to the Mirror, Stanley Johnson admitted he is not "100% up to speed" with current rules in the UK as he had just returned home after three weeks abroad.

However, he admitted that his situation was still "no excuse" for not understanding or following the rules.

"I'm extremely sorry for the slip-up and I would urge absolutely everybody to do everything they can to make sure they do follow the rules about masks and social distancing," he said.

"The fact this was my first day back in the UK after three weeks abroad is, I am sure, no excuse for not knowing the rules."

During Wednesday's Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the British public to follow his government's coronavirus guidelines.

"Bear in mind that the fines are now very considerable and they will be imposed," he said.

Read more: MPs vote to renew emergency coronavirus powers

Read more: UK records 7,108 coronavirus cases and 71 deaths in last 24 hours

Face coverings have been compulsory in shops and on public transport since 24 July.

Last week, the government extended the guidance to hospitality venues, theatres, restaurants, bars and pubs unless people need to remove them to eat or drink.

Stanley Johnson's "slip-up" is not the first time the PM's father has made the headlines for failing to adhere to Covid measures.

In July, he defended his decision to travel to Greece in an apparent breach of Foreign Office guidance to avoid non-essential travel.

He also admitted to breaking lockdown rules when he went out to buy a newspaper after his grandchild was born in April, stating he was "not sure it's an essential journey", and indicated in March that he would ignore the government's advice and go to the pub.

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