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Covid-19: Public Order

Volume 686: debated on Monday 14 December 2020

Our police forces face unprecedented challenges and have the critical role of maintaining public order. They will continue to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules, but will enforce where necessary. We have provided £30 million extra surge funding to support additional enforcement and we continue to work closely with our policing partners to ensure they have the necessary powers.

There are widespread reports in West Yorkshire of people breaking restrictions when in gyms. This is incredibly frustrating for pubs that are forced to close, with many on the brink of extinction. Can my hon. Friend reassure those pubs, which are watching from the sidelines, that the same robust approach will be applied in all settings?

I know my hon. Friend has a background as a former publican and that his local pubs are very dear to his heart as a key plank of his local communities. We have done everything possible economically to try to support them, but he is quite right that we should, where at all possible, try to maintain a level playing field in terms of enforcement. He will know that the responsibility for enforcement indoors largely falls to local authorities, environmental health and trading standards, but his question today is a good reminder to everybody involved in enforcement that it must not only be fair, but be seen to be fair.

Has the Minister seen some of the quite shocking footage of the policing of demonstrations that is available online, and is he aware that the police have been visiting restaurants and demanding people’s names and addresses? What is happening to our country?

I know my right hon. Friend is not given to hyperbole and that he has expressed his concern about the enforcement regime around the regulations over some weeks now. The enforcement from place to place is obviously an operational matter for the chief constable in that particular locality, but we are trying, where at all possible and in close conjunction with the National Police Chiefs Council, to maintain a sense of fairness and proportionality, using the “Four Es” where we can. I would just point him to the very small number of enforcement notices that have been handed out against the vast population of the United Kingdom—only in the tens of thousands against a population of 65 million—which shows that encouraging the British people to follow the regulations is largely working.