Drinkers could order a Scotch egg with their pint to get around the Tier 2 restrictions in England, a Cabinet minister has suggested.
George Eustice said the snack would constitute a “substantial meal” under the rules which will only allow alcohol to be served with food in Tier 2 areas from Wednesday.
More than 57% of England’s population will be in the middle tier, with severe restrictions imposed on pubs.
What can you do in each tier from December 2? The new rules in England at a glance:
Tier 1: Up to six people can meet indoors or outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm.
Tier 2: No mixing indoors, apart from support bubbles. Up to six people can meet outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm - but alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.
Tier 3: No mixing indoors. People can only meet outdoors in limited places such as parks and public gardens. Pubs and restaurants must close, with the exception of takeaway sales.
In all tiers, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers and personal care services can open. People in all tiers to work from home where they can do so. Full details on what you can do in each tier here.
In the harsher Tier 3, affecting more than 41% of the population, pubs and restaurants can only operate on a takeaway or delivery basis.
Environment Secretary Mr Eustice said the “substantial meal” provision in Tier 2 was “understood very much by the restaurant trade”.
He told LBC Radio: “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, but this is a term that’s understood in licensing since it is, you can have the concept of a table licence for alcohol that also requires you to serve a substantial meal.
“That is the model that is being followed.”
Scores of Tory MPs have raised concern about the tiers ahead of Tuesday’s Commons vote on the new system.
Mr Eustice admitted the restrictions may not be “perfectly consistent” or fair.
On the “substantial meal” rule, Mr Eustice said: “The evidence has been that some of the challenges we have had with pubs were where you had large groups of people congregating and actually not maintaining social distancing, they were just drinking.
“They were more likely to maintain social distancing sat down and having a meal.”
He told talkRadio: “The measures we’re taking are all about trying to break the cycle of infection and that doesn’t mean that every rule that we introduce and every requirement we put on people is perfectly consistent or might even be considered perfectly fair – indeed, they won’t be.”
Mr Eustice’s views on the Scotch egg are not the first time a Cabinet minister has faced questions about the “substantial meal” rules.
Under the previous tiers system, before England’s national lockdown, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick suggested that a Cornish pasty served with chips or salad would count.
“If you would expect to go into that restaurant normally, or pub, and order a plated meal at the table of a Cornish pasty with chips or side salad or whatever it comes with, then that’s a normal meal,” he said.