Eddie Mair challenges shadow home secretary over backing new £800 fines

21 January 2021, 20:07 | Updated: 21 January 2021, 20:15

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

This is the moment Eddie Mair grilled shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds over his backing of the new £800 fines for those attending house parties.

The Labour MP was interrogated by Eddie after his party gave its support to Home Secretary Priti Patel's new coronavirus lockdown policy.

On Thursday, the Cabinet minister announced that people attending illegal house parties and indoor gatherings will face a new £800 fine from next week that could rise to £6,400 for repeat offenders.

Asked if Labour agrees with the measure, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: "Yes is the short answer."

"I do think that a minority of people who are flagrantly breaching the rules are being irresponsible and I think putting that in place is appropriate. We know that house parties are particularly problematic in terms of spreading the virus.

"But there is a wider point here: most people are complying with the rules; they've made extraordinary sacrifices and the government has to fulfil its part of the bargain both in clear messaging and in a swift and fair vaccine rollout."

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Nick Thomas-Symonds was grilled over his party's backing of £800 house party fines
Nick Thomas-Symonds was grilled over his party's backing of £800 house party fines. Picture: PA / LBC

But Eddie pressed the shadow home secretary on the logic behind the government's choice of the number 15, asking whether the Labour MP saw any logic behind the figure.

"There always has to be a number you would choose," he replied.

"There will be, for example, large households you have to take into account. She will also, no doubt, have spoken to operation partners.

"What was significant in that press conference was listening to Martin Hewitt (chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council)... saying that he welcomed it coming in.

He added: "But that doesn't mean, though, that mixing with other households below that number is acceptable because it most certainly isn't."

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Eddie then challenged Mr Thomas-Symonds further given that he offered his backing to the policy, asking whether it remains legal for people to attend house parties of fewer than 15 people.

"There are other rules as well already in place about household mixing," to which Eddie interrupted, "but you won't be fined for it?"

"There's a variety of fines in place, but this particular fine, no you will not, that's how I understood."

Asked again whether the policy made sense, he replied: "It does make sense that you have a number.

"I haven't myself seen the logic for why it's 15 and I will, of course, look at that detail."

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