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Watch: Tory MP Desmond Swayne rails against ‘monstrous imposition’ of compulsory face masks and says he won’t go shopping

Conservative MP Desmond Swayne launched a Commons attack on the new plan. (Image: Parliament)

3 min read

Conservative former minister Sir Desmond Swayne has launched a stinging attack on the Government’s decision to make mask-wearing compulsory in England’s shops later this month.

The New Forest West MP said the move, which will come into force on July 24, was a “monstrous imposition” that would stop him from visiting shops at all.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government had tried to balance public health needs with the “ancient liberties of a gentleman to go shopping”.

The commons clash came as Mr Hancock said those who failed to adhere to the new rule in shops could face £100 fines. 

It follows confusion over whether the Government would press ahead with making the wearing of face coverings compulsory in shops, a requirement that is already in force on public transport in England.

But Sir Desmond warned: “Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping than the thought of having to mask up.”

He asked: “Was this [done in] consultation with the police force and particularly the, the Chief Constable of Hampshire?

“For it is she that will have to enforce this monstrous imposition against myself and a number of outraged, reluctant constituents.”

Responding to the criticism, Mr Hancock said: “The balance in the need to restrict the spread of the virus, whilst also allowing the ancient liberties of a gentleman to go shopping is a difficult balance to strike. 

“And we have made the judgement that the best way to strike it is to allow a gentleman to go shopping but require him to wear a face mask. 

“And of course, the enforcement is for, for the police, but the enforcement, I think, will largely be undertaken by the British people themselves who have been remarkable in their fortitude, sticking with these rules even whilst they may be a frustrating imposition.”

The move follows a backlash against face masks from some conservative commentators, with former Tory and Ukip MP Douglas Carswell saying: “Oh well. No more going to the shops for me.”

Some social media users claiming to be Conservative members also posted pictures of cut-up membership cards in the wake of the move, while journalist Toby Young, who was briefly appointed as a government adviser in 2018, branded masks “mandatory face nappies”.

The shift in the UK's strategy comes after a report published last week by the Royal Society, an independent British scientific academy, pointed out that the UK has seen relatively low take-up of face coverings compared to other major economies.

According to a study carried out by the group, uptake of face coverings in the UK by late-April stood at around 25%, compared to 83.4% in Italy, 65.8% in the United States and 63.8% in Spain.


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