What did lockdown rules say when these Labour MPs are claimed to have broken them?

16th Jun 2020

We’ve seen it claimed multiple times that several Labour MPs broke lockdown rules. 

As we’ve said before, there is a difference between the law that enforces lockdown and government guidance. This article is going to primarily look at guidance, but we will mention the laws. Many aspects of the following cases fall into grey areas between guidance, the law, and people’s personal situations.

In March, Labour MP for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock posted a photo of himself sitting outside his father’s home in London. Mr Kinnock was urged to comply with the lockdown by South Wales Police at the time, particularly around essential travel. The MP defended his actions, saying he was delivering essential items. 

At the time guidance said that people should only leave their homes for a handful of reasons, one was “to provide care or to help a vulnerable person”. The guidance on shielding also said that friends and family could be called on to support vulnerable people in getting food and medicines. We don’t know Mr Kinnock’s or his family’s personal circumstances, however, the law also stated that someone could leave their home if assisting a vulnerable person. As both of Mr Kinnock’s parents are over 70, they fall under the legislation's definition of “vulnerable”. 

Labour MP Tahir Ali was criticised for attending a funeral along with a large group in April. Police attended the gathering at the time and took no further action. He said he was attending the services as an observer, which went against funeral guidance at that time, which stated only close family or co-habitants should attend a funeral, or if none of these could attend then a “modest number” of close friends could attend. He has acknowledged that his actions were wrong.

MP Kevan Jones was criticised for attending a birthday party in his constituency in early May. Mr Jones claimed at the time that the police were aware of the gathering, as was the local mayor who reportedly helped organise the event. Full Fact has contacted Stanley police to confirm this. At the time, the government and legislation still said that public gatherings of more than two people were prohibited unless they lived in the same household, it was for work purposes, to attend a funeral, it was necessary to help someone move house, provide care to a vulnerable person, to give emergency assistance or undertake legal proceedings. 

Welsh Labour Health Minister Vaughn Gething was pictured on 9 May eating chips on a park bench. He said at the time the act was within the “rules” and this was also the position of the Welsh government in comments reported by The Sun. We don’t know the exact circumstances of Mr Gethin’s walk or his stop to eat chips.

At the time the photograph was reportedly taken, Welsh government guidelines said: “Going for a walk and then having a picnic or spending a prolonged period on a park bench, for example, is not considered to be exercise and is not intended to be a reasonable excuse.”

Government advice on exercising was then updated on 11 May. From that date it said “Going for a walk and also stopping to have something to eat or sit in a park” was allowed, so long as more time was spent exercising than eating.