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PM contradicts Priti Patel by telling public not to snitch on neighbours

Coronavirus | Published:

New laws to restrict social gatherings to fewer than six people came into force on Monday.

Boris Johnson visit to North Yorkshire

The Prime Minister has contradicted Home Secretary Priti Patel by saying members of the public should not report their neighbours for breaching the “rule of six” unless they are having large parties.

Any social gathering of more than six people in England is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings.

On Tuesday, Ms Patel said she would report breaches she saw, later suggesting that families stopping to talk in the street could be breaking the new laws.

Ms Patel told BBC Breakfast: “I think anybody would want to take responsibility and ensure we’re not spreading this awful disease and therefore if I saw gatherings of more than six people clearly I would report that.”

Cabinet Meeting
Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she would ‘clearly’ report gatherings of more than six people (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

However, Boris Johnson has since urged people to speak with rulebreakers before notifying the authorities.

He told The Sun: “I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself.

“What people should do in the first instance obviously if they are concerned is raise it with their friends and neighbours.

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“But I think what is reasonable for anyone to do is if they think there is a serious threat to public health as a result of their neighbours’ activities – if there is some huge kind of Animal House party taking place, as I am sure, hot tubs and so forth, and there is a serious threat to public health then it’s reasonable for the authorities to know.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Boris Johnson has appeared to contradict the Home Secretary (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Animal House is an American comedy which marked John Belushi’s film debut as a hard-partying college fraternity member.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after Policing Minister Kit Malthouse suggested that people should ring the non-emergency 101 number if they have concerns that their neighbours are breaching the laws.

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As the rules came into effect on Monday, he said if people saw “that kind of thing” they should consider calling the police.

Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter previously said that police officers on the front line were “trying to interpret” the rules.

In response to a question about having “more guidance” on Good Morning Britain, he responded: “Maybe we should have ‘guidance’, because we haven’t had any yet.”

He said he understood the Government faced a “very fast-moving” situation, adding: “But my colleagues who are on the front line trying to interpret this law, trying to educate and work with the public, are now being accused of asking (people) to snitch on their neighbours.”

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