Scotch egg ‘starter’ rather than substantial meal, says Gove

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A Cabinet minister has created further confusion around the coronavirus restrictions on pubs after suggesting that a Scotch egg might not count as a “substantial meal”.

Michael Gove said the egg and sausagemeat combination is “probably a starter”, a day after his Cabinet colleague, George Eustice, said it would count as a “substantial meal”.

Under Tier 2 restrictions in England from Wednesday, people can only buy alcohol in pubs and restaurants if they are consuming a substantial meal – something which would normally be considered as a main course.

Coronavirus – Tue Nov 10, 2020
Michael Gove said a Scotch egg is ‘probably a starter’ but admitted he is a ‘hearty trencherman’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“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.”

He said 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.”

On Monday, Environment Secretary Mr Eustice said: “I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service.

“Often that might be as a starter but, yes, I think it would.”

More than 57% 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% of the population, pubs and restaurants can only operate on a takeaway or delivery basis.

Downing Street insisted that the concept of a “substantial meal” is well understood in the hospitality industry, without saying whether that includes a Scotch egg.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman refused to spell out the difference between a “bar snack” and a meal.

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.”

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