The senior minister started the day by describing the egg and sausagemeat combination as a starter, contradicting Cabinet colleague George Eustice, who said it could count as a substantial meal.
But Mr Gove later backtracked and said: “A scotch egg is a substantial meal. I myself would definitely scoff a couple of scotch eggs if I had the chance.”
The definition matters because, under the Tier 2 restrictions affecting the majority of England’s population from Wednesday, pubs can only serve alcohol to customers consuming a substantial meal – something that would normally be considered a main course.
Landlords could face hefty fines for failing to comply with the rules, but ministers and Downing Street have caused confusion over snack.
Mr Eustice said on Monday that the snack would constitute a “substantial meal if there were table service”.
But Mr Gove told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday that, as far as he’s concerned, a Scotch egg is “probably a starter”.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a starter," he said. “But the broader, more serious point I think we need to establish is there are reasonable rules about hospitality which are there to keep us all safe," said the Cabinet Office minister.
Mr Gove went on to say that the definition of the term has existed in law for many years which allows families to buy 16-year-olds an alcoholic drink with a substantial meal, but he could not say what it constituted.
“They (pubs) already do know what the rules are and they have for years now,” he said.
“My own preference when it comes to a substantial meal might be more than just a scotch egg but that’s because I’m a hearty trencherman.
“The Government is relying on people’s common sense.”
He also told LBC that “a couple of scotch eggs is a starter, as far as I’m concerned”.
Less than an hour later, Mr Gove appeared to change his mind as he told ITV News: “A Scotch egg is a substantial meal.”
He said: “I myself would definitely scoff a couple of Scotch eggs if I had the chance, but I do recognise that it is a substantial meal.”
Downing Street has not ruled out drinkers being able to order a Scotch egg with their pints.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed buying alcohol will be permitted with a “substantial meal” but would not set out the line between a snack and a dinner.
“It’s a principle that’s well established in the hospitality industry and it’s something they’ve been applying for some time,” he said.
“We introduced the rule that you can only provide alcohol along with a substantial meal along with the first set of tiering. That remains the case under this set of tiering.
Pressed on whether the rules permit pints being served alongside sausage rolls, pork pies, or a ploughman’s lunch, he said: “I’m obviously not going to get into the detail of every possible meal.
“But we’ve been clear: bar snacks do not count as a substantial meal but it’s well established practice in the hospitality industry what does.”
More than 57 per cent of England’s population will be in Tier 2 restrictions, imposing severe limits on the ability of pubs to operate.
In the harsher Tier 3, affecting more than 41 per cent of the population, pubs and restaurants can only operate on a takeaway or delivery basis.