41.In our 11th Report of this session we described the main provisions of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/350), the main “lockdown” Regulations, which, with immediate effect, banned public gatherings of more than two people (regulation 7) and prohibited anyone from leaving the place where they are living without reasonable excuse (regulation 6). The Regulations are enforceable by a police constable and breach is subject to a fixed penalty notice fine of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
42.In considering the Regulations we noticed a discrepancy between the provisions in the legislation and the statements in the Covid 19 guidance published on Gov.uk. For example, the “reasonable excuses” for leaving one’s residence set out in regulation 6 include obtaining basic necessities and taking exercise. The guidance, however, states that shopping for basic necessities “must be as infrequent as possible” and that only “one form of exercise a day” should be taken. We therefore wrote to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, to ask whether these narrower interpretations would be used in enforcement despite not being on the face of the legislation.
43.Mr Hancock confirmed that it was the wording of the instrument and not the guidance which was legally enforceable. However, he added that “the guidance is an important way for the public to understand how best to limit the spread of coronavirus”.
44.We acknowledge the important role of the guidance. The House may wish, however, to seek an assurance that all those responsible for enforcing these Regulations are aware of their scope, as distinct from that of the guidance.
45.The correspondence is published in full in Appendix 1 of this Report.
46.The Committee wrote to the Leader of the House of Commons to ask about the use of sunset provisions in statutory instruments dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, after the Committee had noticed that a wide variety of different sunset dates and provisions were being used. The Committee’s letter and the response by the Leader of the House of Commons are set out in Appendix 2 of this Report.
7 See Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 () in paragraphs 52-55 of our , Session 2019-21 (HL Paper 49).
8 HM Government, Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do (last updated 1 May 2020): [accessed 30 April 2020].
9 See the paragraph on Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 () on page 12 of this report – which adds county councils to that number.