Michael Gove must answer questions about whether he broke social distancing rules after his split from his wife, the shadow home secretary has said. 

Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Cabinet Office minister must “clarify” his “household” arrangements because he had been key to the Government drawing up how people behave during the pandemic. 

Mr Gove, 53, and his wife, Sarah Vine, 54, a journalist, announced on Friday that they had "agreed to separate" and were finalising their divorce after almost 20 years of marriage.

Friends of Mr Gove and Ms Vine insisted that nobody else was involved in the split and the couple had simply "drifted apart".

They said they would not comment further. However, Mr Thomas-Symonds told Times Radio on Saturday that although Mr Gove had a right to privacy regarding his private life, he must respond to concerns rules might have been broken.

“People’s private lives, on the whole, are their own affair, and I’m very sorry to hear about Michael Gove and Sarah Vine’s divorce, and obviously wish everyone and their children well in those particular circumstances of course,” he said.

“There is, though, a question here about the household. What existed in those particular circumstances and whether any of the guidance in terms of social distancing was broken.

“But, that’s something that Michael Gove, I’m sure, can clear up very quickly if he wished to comment on it.

“I think he needs to be clear about the position with regard to the rules and … everyone around the country has had to follow the guidance in their particular circumstances of their personal life. 

“That applies, with an even greater imperative, to those within Government, those in public life, those who are in senior positions within Government. 

“And yes, I do think that Michael Gove should clarify that. And you can do it without having to go into any of the particular details of his personal life, to which I, and I’m sure everybody else, will be very sympathetic.”

Earlier a source close to Mr Gove dismissed any rumours about his private life as "utter nonsense" and "made up", adding he was not aware of any social distancing regulations having been breached.

Friends of Mr Gove and Ms Vine insisted that nobody else was involved in the split and the couple had simply "drifted apart".

Daniel Leal-Olivas / i-Images

Mr Gove became the second senior Cabinet minister in a week to split from his wife after it emerged Matt Hancock was having an affair with his aide, Gina Coladangelo.

Some blamed the fallout from that revelation as the reason why the Conservatives lost the Batley and Spen by-election, a seat the Tories had been expected to win.

Speculation surrounding Mr Gove’s marriage was fuelled last week when Ms Vine wrote a column in a Sunday newspaper in which she spoke of the difficulties of sustaining a political marriage.

She wrote in the Mail on Sunday that Mr Hancock’s "behaviour may be shocking, but given the context it is entirely predictable".

Mr Gove, one of Mr Johnson’s most influential ministers who backed a strict lockdown, has been married to Ms Vine, a columnist for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, since October 2001.

A friend of the couple said: "This is a difficult and sad decision for Michael and Sarah after 20 years of marriage. It is an entirely amicable separation and there is no one else involved."

The friend added: "They have drifted apart over the past couple of years but they remain friends. Their absolute priority is the children."