Police chief won't be checking Tier 2 lockdown substantial meals – 'we have other priorities'

Large juicy cutlets stuffed with boiled egg on a dark wooden background. Scottish cutlet.
The definition of whether a Scotch egg is a meal is down to the context you’re eating it in, a senior police officer has said.

Police will not be checking what customers will be eating in pubs to ensure they are following the ‘substantial meals’ requirement in areas under Tier 2 restrictions.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton, who is the lead for civil contingencies at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told iNews: “Police will not be visiting pubs checking on what people are eating.

“If we are faced with an issue, we may issue warnings and take action. We have other priorities.”

England returned to a tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday after the month-long lockdown ended.

More than half of the population of England was put under Tier 2 restrictions, which are similar to the old Tier 3.

Under the new rules, pubs and restaurants may only serve alcohol alongside ‘substantial meals’.

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The measure is aimed at reducing drunkenness that makes people less likely to maintain social distancing in public spaces, but there has been a debate over what exactly a substantial meal is.

If pubs and bars cannot provide meals with their drinks then they must close.

All hospitality must close in areas under Tier 3 except when providing takeaway services.

When combining the total number of people under Tier 2 and Tier 3 it covers over 99% of the population of England.

The debate became more confused when environment secretary George Eustice suggested a Scotch egg was a substantial meal because he said it was often served as a starter.

Downing Street refused to confirm if it was or was not but the confusion was already there.

During the previous tier system, there was a debate over whether a Cornish pasty was or was not a substantial meal, after communities secretary Robert Jenrick said it was if it was served as a lunch with chips.

DCC Netherton said a substantial meal is not a new concept and the police understood what it meant.

The substantial meal qualification is used when a person under 18 consumes alcohol with food in a pub.

DCC Netherton said the definition of whether a Scotch egg is a meal is down to the context you’re eating it in.

He said if you were just eating it from your hand with a pint then it was not a substantial meal.

But if you were eating it at a table with a knife and fork served alongside some salad, beetroot or pickle then it was a substantial meal.

The government has said it was down to pub-goers and landlords to exercise their own judgment when deciding what complied with the coronavirus restrictions.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “It’s for both customers and venues to act reasonably and to exercise good judgment when adhering to these regulations.”

The new tiered system is expected to be in place for several months despite the vaccine rollout due to start in the next few days.

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