Home > News > The law and COVID-19: the Prime Minister’s muddle about the Government’s own rules (as of 27th March 2020) and a call for clarity

Landmark’s Tim Morshead, QC shares his thoughts on the Prime Minister’s recent decisions and messages to the nation.

“The takeaway point from this note is that the Prime Minister’s message to the nation on 23rd March 2020, which was meant to describe the effect of regulations actually made on 26th March 2020, does not accurately describe the restrictions imposed by those regulations. He has created the impression that people may only leave their homes for work which is “essential”. That is not what the regulations require. The regulations entitle anyone to leave home for work, if the work itself means they cannot do it from home. This is so, regardless of value-judgments about the relative importance of the work in the fight against COVID-19 or the like.

This is not something that would be clear to anyone who is not a lawyer. Unless or until they are changed, the current regulations do not do what the Prime Minister said they would do.

Possibly the Prime Minister’s description of the restrictions would be a better way of containing the disease. But it is crucial for businesses to have clarity and certainty. They cannot be expected to deal with the fall-out of muddle created by politicians, on top of the effects already created by COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed by law. The knock-on effects for the actual conduct of business are likely to inflict further and unnecessary harm to an economy which is already facing unprecedented turmoil.

In the circumstances, the Government ought urgently to clarify the position either by (i) amending the regulations to match the Prime Minister’s description of them or (ii) by publicising widely a correct description of what restrictions apply to work-related activities.”

More details can be read here.

Tim Morshead, QC

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