Pulling Together

Moved to Tiers

It seems to be a trope in current circulation that our Prime Minister is big on ideas but lacking in attention to detail. If true, that is unfortunate in one who rules by unchallenged whims under an enabling act.

In previous times, parliamentary scrutiny meant every bill got thorough consideration of potential anomalies and added provisions catered for exceptional circumstances. Indeed, the Equality Act 2010 mostly consists of exceptions in which it does not apply. However, legislation by decree of a man who doesn’t do detail can throw up the strangest anomalies.

The tiers which define the English response to CoViD are a good example. Let us consider the case of a man and his wife, who have maintained their separate residences after their marriage. They habitually will live together in one house or the other, depending on family and work commitments. This gives them the flexibility they need to pursue their own separate careers within the framework of a joint existence shared as much as possible. They are happy, and can usually be found together in one of their homes, which they occupy alternately as a rule, although they can separate briefly if commitments clash so each has to be in their own abode until they can resume being together.

Introduce the wife’s home going into Tier 3. Suddenly, it becomes an offence for the person whose house is in Tier 1 to visit and stay at a house in Tier 3. The Tier 3 occupant must not entertain visitors from another household, which seems to be defined not in terms of relationship — surely a married couple are a single household even if they do have separate residences — but by place of residence. Does that mean it becomes illegal for her husband to remain with her after her house enters Tier 3? Is it also illegal for her to join her husband at his address? After all, tier 3 residents must not spend the night in another person’s private home.

If a couple have two homes they must stay at their primary residence and not in a second home, but what if the couple don't define their two houses that way? What if each house is considered the primary address of the one who owns it?

But, you may say, surely two people who are the only adult in their home can form a support bubble with another household and be considered a single household under that rule? Well, yes, but it turns out one of them has an adult son who lives with her, and therefore is ineligible to form a bubble, even with someone she normally lives with.

Proper parliamentary scrutiny would have sorted this out to ensure the law were clear. Unfortunately, it’s not. Could it really be the PM’s intention to drive married couples apart? Probably not, but it wasn’t fully thought through.

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