Tackled in Parliament yesterday, Tory frontbencher Lord Bethell acknowledged there were inconsistencies in the Covid-19 guidance issued by the Government and that it was “entirely right to beat up the minister” about it.
He made his remarks after the Government delayed the final easing of lockdown measures to July 19 to give more time for people to receive vaccinations in the face of the rapidly spreading Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
Speaking in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Leeds the Rt Rev Nick Baines, said: “Would the minister agree that the prolonging of the restrictions might be justified for certain reasons – I wouldn’t demur from that – but the prolonging of inconsistencies is a serious impediment to public adherence to the rules?”
He added: “For example, you can sing in a pub but you can’t sing in a church. This is what brings the rules into disrepute.”
Responding, Lord Bethell said: “It is enormously frustrating to those who have a passion for singing.”
However, pointing out it was an airborne aerosol disease, he added: “The decision that has been made has been made with huge regret and not without a huge amount of scientific analysis. But we have to fight this virus and we have to prevent people getting sick.”
The minister also flatly rejected that there had been any breakdown in discipline over the rules.
“I am astounded by the British public and their adherence to voluntary guidelines and arrangements,” he said.
Pressing the minister, Tory peer Lord Cormack said: “Why is he allowed to go down to his local pub and sing Roll Out The Barrel but he can’t go into his local church and sing Guide Me O My Great Redeemer?”
Lord Bethell said: “I completely accept the challenge and these anomalies do exist and he is entirely right to beat up the minister for this kind of stuff.
“It is unbelievably difficult to write guidelines that touch so many different parts of life. I wouldn’t pretend for a moment that there is absolutely 100 per cent consistency in everything that is done.
“These things are done in order to save lives and to protect people from infection.
“They are done with a heavy heart and they are done having looked at the scientific evidence and with an absolute sense of regret that we are I know letting down those who have a passion for singing and for religious worship.”