Tom Swarbrick confronts Environment Secretary over confusing face mask policy

14 July 2020, 10:23

By Fiona Jones

LBC's Tom Swarbrick confronts Environment Secretary George Eustice over the mixed messages about face masks in England.

Face coverings will become mandatory in all shops and supermarkets in England from 24 July. In a statement on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to say anyone failing to comply with the order could face a fine of up to £100.

Tom asked why the Government has sent contradictory messages over the wearing of face masks after the Prime Minister implied they could become mandatory on Friday and on Sunday Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said believed in “people’s good sense” over compulsory ruling.

The Environment Secretary disagreed with the accusation of mixed messaging:"The evidence and the advice has been evolving in this space for some time...following that we gave a very clear steer that they should wear face coverings when out and about.

"We then made in mandatory on public transport in June and now as we start to loosen other restrictions... we think we need to consider other mitigating measures."

Tom asked why the Government claims to have faith in the public but are now making face masks mandatory.

"We have faith in them to abide by this rule but the truth is once you make something mandatory people do take it more seriously," Mr Eustice said.

Tom Swarbrick confronts Environment Secretary over confusing face mask policy
Tom Swarbrick confronts Environment Secretary over confusing face mask policy. Picture: LBC

Tom pushed him for clarity, accusing the Government's messaging of being a "mess."

Mr Eustice rejected this: "The Government had been considering a change in this area over the last few days but hadn't made that decision, therefore wasn't ready to announce it."

He said that Michael Gove's "commons sense" comment on Sunday represented the relevant guidelines then and not the guidelines presently.

"So this was the plan? The confusion was part of the plan?" asked Tom.

"I don't think it's right to say the confusion was part of the plan it's just an issue was under consideration but a decision had not been made, therefore a decision could not be announced until it was made," Mr Eustice said, pointing out the advice to wear face masks has been in place since May.

Responding to why these measures are not being enforced in restaurants and pubs, Mr Eustice said: "If people are going into pubs to drink or to eat it's obviously just not practical to require them to wear a face mask."

He did concede that there are "obviously risks" as pubs and restaurants are enclosed spaces, just like shops.

The Environment Secretary explained the face covering regulation comes into place on 24 July as it gives people time to get a mask and gives retailers time to prepare.