by Victoria Hewson, Cap X, 15 June 2021
- The continuing lack of Parliamentary scrutiny of Covid rules is deeply troubling
- Who can distinguish between law and guidance at this point? Not ministers and not the police
- The idea that restrictions must remain until all risk is eliminated is an inversion of the traditional view of freedom
So 21 June will not, after all, see the great restoration of freedom that we had hoped for.
But while restricted businesses and their potential customers will be rightly disappointed, Step 4 (as the now-postponed June 21 roadmap stage is known) was never going to be a complete return to normality, and we should not be lulled into thinking that Step 3 (where we are now) is good enough to be going on with.
Step 4 does not include, for example a repeal of the mask mandate. The rules that pubs and restaurants may only serve customers who are seated, and other social distance rules and guidance, remain subject to the government’s Roadmap Review that has not yet been published. Such rules (no doubt combined with the crushing effects of the preceding months of forced closures) mean 25% of licensed premises have not re-opened since permitted to do so on 17 May. The idea of spontaneously turning up for a pint at the bar, or even standing outside your local, in that mystifying British way, are still distant memories and faint hopes. And it’s not just about pubs and hospitality either. While this one may now be more honoured in the breach, it is still illegal to invite more than six people into your home.
And who even knows what the rules are any more? Who has been able to keep up with the hundreds of changes, and distinguish between law and guidance? Not the police, and not ministers either. Last week the House of Lords Constitution Committee criticised the Government for announcing legal changes in press conferences and misrepresenting the law to the public. They found that this had led to a “lack of clarity around which rules are legally enforceable, posing challenges for the police and local government, leading to wrongful criminal charges, and potentially undermining public compliance”. Sadly, judging by yesterday evening’s announcement, the committee’s pleas for certainty, clarity and transparency have fallen on deaf ears. The current guidance on the restrictions is still misleadingly titled ‘what you can and cannot do’, and some of the crazy ‘rules’ for wedding celebrations (no dancing, no service sheets or hymn books) are also only guidance. Social distancing at the larger weddings that will now be permitted will be more tightly regulated. ... Continue reading >>>