05:44, November 05 116 0 theguardian.com

2020-11-05 05:44:04
Minister blames public for second English lockdown

The second national lockdown in England has been caused in part by a lack of public compliance, the justice secretary has said, adding that it will be a “huge challenge” to get the public to follow the strict rules this time.

Robert Buckland suggested the public had failed to adhere to the previous system, leading to the need for the four-week lockdown starting on Thursday in England.

“That’s one of the reasons we are having to take the measures we are today,” the cabinet minister told the BBC. “Sadly, it’s been difficult frankly regarding the compliance of some people with regard to the quarantine restrictions.

“I think it would be very ambitious of me to suggest that somehow we will be able to use the enforcement authorities to intervene in every case I think sadly that’s not possible.”

Buckland said he had not seen any of the much-vaunted Covid marshals out in public spaces but said local authorities had been given funding to expand enforcement in order to ease pressure on police.

“I haven’t met any, but I know that in my local area arrangements are being made,” he said. “They will have been trained in the regulations, the dos and don’ts and that person will be a useful source of advice and encouragement to make sure we can avoid a situation where lots of people are bring ticketed for infringements.”

Police have warned the public to expect tougher action after the home secretary told them to “strengthen enforcement”.

Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said: “Not following the regulations and measures put in place to limit the spread of the virus is unacceptable. We won’t waste time with endless encouragement for those who knowingly or deliberately break the rules. People recklessly ignoring the regulations should expect to receive a fixed penalty notice.”

Priti Patel told police chiefs that Downing Street wanted tougher action, and senior government figures called for the police to be visible in enforcing Covid regulations, especially against illegal raves or wedding with a large number of attendees.

There is a £200 fine for every breach that doubles on every offence, up to a maximum of £6,400, as well as £10,000 for large gatherings.

Buckland said the police would use the increased fines for repeat offenders. “I think the message has to go out very clearly that this will only work if we all play our part. The majority of people do brilliantly, but we have to deal with that tiny minority who do not wish to support other people.”

The government suffered a bruising vote on the lockdown on Wednesday, with Boris Johnson’s coronavirus strategy rejected by dozens of Conservative MPs.

Senior Tories, including former leaders Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith, were among those in Wednesday’s Commons debate to criticise Downing Street’s management of the pandemic.

Thirty-four Conservative MPs voted against the four-week lockdown – the central plank of Downing Street’s plan for containing the virus – and several said they could not support any extension beyond 2 December, when it was due to end.

May was among those who lined up to lambast the government, saying no data had been produced to justify the rules.

Buckland said the dissent in parliament was “actually fairly limited”, given the support of opposition parties.

“The decision made by the Commons actually reflects the vast majority of the public who support this approach, who do not want to see a series of stop-start measures that not only disrupt life and wellbeing, but disrupt the economy,” Buckland told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.