The UK Government’s competence has yet again been called into question this week as Conservative minister was unable to clarify simple rules surrounding the most recent Government guidance for the North East.
The minister was unable to answer when asked if the current restrictions surrounding the restriction of the numbers of people in meeting indoors also applied to groups meeting in Beer Garden’s or outdoor spaces at restaurants.
Gillian Keegan, the Education Minister, was unable to give succinct details surrounding the new restrictions for the North East and their impact, specifically, on outdoor spaces.
The new restrictions, which came into force on Monday, include a ban on mass singing, fines for misreporting someone breaking the restrictions and fines for those who are deemed reckless. The range of restrictions carry fines from £1,000 to £4,000.
Furthermore, the restriction now disallow groups from different households to meet indoors, carrying a fine of up to £6,400 and make it illegal for groups from different households to meet in pubs, restaurants, etc.
When pressed on the issue on Radio 4’s Today programme, she said, “I’m sorry I can’t clarify that. I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.”
She continued, “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question. I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the north east.”
The interview has been labelled shambolic by many with the public expressing fury that, if a Government minister cannot answer the question on restriction guidelines, how are the public meant to understand them.
Shadow Health Secretary, Alex Norris, has hit out at the conservative government incompetence over their handling of the coronavirus situation, stating, “It speaks volumes that even the government’s own ministers don’t know what’s going on. This will do little to inspire public confidence in the north-east and across the country.”
“The Conservatives’ incompetence is hampering our response to this pandemic,”
Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead council, has stated, “It was announced in the House of Commons and we were not told beforehand that announcement was going to be made. However, we had had discussions last week that led us to believe that this was going to happen. We just weren’t pre-warned that it was actually going to happen. It didn’t help.”
“I got inundated with telephone calls and emails last night from people asking, ‘Can we do this, can we do that?’ and actually I didn’t have the precise wording of the regulations in front of us.”
“So, it is a bit chaotic the way these things happen, Nick [Forbes, Newcastle city council leader] was quite right to be annoyed about that.”
The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has also stated, “This is the problem with local restrictions. Once they’re in, they tend to stay in. And the longer they’re in, the more the anomalies/injustices grow.”
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