The Tories will include a so-called ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ in new coronavirus regulations coming into force later this month, allowing Brits to leave the UK to prepare a second home for sale or rent.
Updated restrictions, which will apply from 29 March, will include a list of “reasonable excuses to travel” outside the country – including an exemption which Labour says is specifically designed to appease Boris Johnson’s father.
Stanley last summer breached coronavirus guidelines by travelling to his Greek villa in order to make it “Covid-proof… in view of the upcoming letting season”.
The new clause allows people to travel abroad “in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property”. Permitted activities include visiting an estate agent or show home, viewing residential properties to rent or buy, and preparing a new property for moving in.
Other exemptions include study or competing in an elite sporting event.
Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP and ex-shadow cabinet minster, told the Guardian: “For hardworking families facing the prospect of missing out on summer holidays, it will stick in the craw that the government has inserted a ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ to Covid rules that allows people to come and go if they have property abroad … It seems it’s still one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”
Another Labour source hit out at the rule as the “Stanley Johnson loophole” for “those managing their overseas property empires” – and accused the government offing “only focused on their own privileged lives”.
Anyone caught breaking the rules to go on holiday faces a fine of up to £5,000. The restrictions expire every six months, so need to be renewed before the end of March.
MPs will vote on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 on Thursday, with the laws expected to come into force on 29 March.