Minister defends coronavirus ‘sex ban’ after senior Tory MP calls it ‘ridiculous’
Minister Simon Clarke defended the new coronavirus regulations (PA)
Housing minister Simon Clarke has defended coronavirus restrictions which have been labelled a “sex ban” after a senior Tory MP called them “ridiculous”.
Alterations to the lockdown rules which came into force on Monday eased some restrictions on activity, but they also prohibit two people from separate households gathering in a private place.
Appearing on LBC, Mr Clarke was asked about the new guidelines - which presenter Nick Ferrari said have been described as “Boris’ anti-bonking laws”.
Asked if that was the right characterisation, the minister replied: “Well no, what this is about, is obviously making sure that we don’t have people staying away from home overnight which is something we’ve always sought to discourage, because it’s vitally important clearly that people stay in their homes and we don’t have any additional transmission risk in society.”
He was then asked if the rules allowed couples to have sex outdoors, Mr Clarke jokingly responded: "It is fair to say the transmission risk of coronavirus is much lower in the open air than in internal space, but obviously we do not encourage people to do anything like that outside at this time or any other.”
Pressed on the issue Mr Clarke said: “I am a Liberal Conservative by approach but I’m not going to get drawn on that question.”
And he added: “We obviously want people to be with people they love as soon as possible, we have relaxed the arrangement so you can see, you can be part of a group of six people now meeting outdoors in a socially distanced fashion.
“It is really important we give people as much normality as we possibly can, as quickly as we can and I absolutely believe that’s the right thing to do, but people do have to understand however the risk is still real, there is still a pandemic ongoing and the measures we’re putting in place to stop people from spending time away from their homes overnight are designed to keep everyone safe.”
But Conservative former minister Tobias Ellwood, now chair of the defence select committee, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain of the rules: “I’m happy to say it’s ridiculous.”
The guidelines were part of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 bill, which was presented to Parliament on Monday.
As well as detailing the measures outlined by Boris Johnson, which allows groups of up to six people to meet outdoors for exercise and barbecues, it also says: “No person may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place indoors, and consists of two or more persons."
Anybody found to be breaking the regulations could be fined £100, but Downing Street confirmed police aren't able to enter homes to investigate, with officers only able to do so if they suspect "serious criminal activity" is taking place.
A spokesperson for Number 10 said: "The police will do as they have done since the beginning of the health regulations being in place.
“They will be exercising their common sense and engaging with the public and only issuing fixed penalty notices when they believe it’s a last resort."