Priti Patel has insisted she would call the police to report neighbours she discovered holding parties or flouting the new government restrictions limiting the social gatherings to just six people in England.
The remarks from the home secretary came after policing minister Kit Malthouse said people should “absolutely” consider reporting individuals they suspect of breaking the guidance to a non-emergency phone number.
Asked whether members of the public should report their neighbours to the police, Ms Patel told Sky News: “Well, that’s your call. That’s a choice of yours. The government advice is pretty clear: people should not be gathering in more than six people.”
Pressed again, the cabinet minister said: “If I was – I’m rarely at home – but if I saw something that was inappropriate, then quite frankly I would effectively call the police, or if it was in a social setting as well.”
“It’s not about dobbing in neighbours. I think it’s all about us taking personal responsibility. If there was a big party taking place it would be right to call the police.”
“Anyone who is effectively defying the rules, they will be helping to spread coronavirus. That is not a good thing, and obviously we all have a role to play. We’re all taking personal responsibility. We all have to be conscientious to one another.”
When quizzed on the issue on BBC Breakfast, Ms Patel said she did not spend her time “looking into people’s gardens”, but added: “I think anybody would want to take responsibility and ensure we’re not spreading this awful disease and therefore if I saw gatherings or more than six people clearly I would report that.”
Ms Patel’s appearance followed the introduction of tough new regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19, with social gatherings, both indoors and outdoors, restricted to no more than six people. Those found flouting the rules can be ordered to pay fixed penalty notices, rising up to £3,200 for repeat offenders.
On Monday, the government also confirmed the new coronavirus laws have made “mingling” between different groups in pubs, restaurants and other public places a criminal offence, with certain exemptions applying.
Asked whether two families of four stopping for a chat on the way to the park constituted “mingling” the Home Secretary said in a separate interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is mingling. I think it is absolutely mingling.”
She went on: “You have got to put this in the context of coronavirus and keeping distance, wearing masks. The rule of six is about making sure that people are being conscientious and not putting other people’s health at risk.
“Mingling is people coming together – that’s my definition of mingling.”
Speaking on Monday, the National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt denied that enforcement of the new relied on people “snitching” or “grassing” on their friends and neighbours, adding: “I think what it relies on is all of us being responsible.
“We all have a responsibility to do what we can do, to take the steps that are required to stop the transmission and to abide by regulations so we can prevent this disease moving further through the country.”
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