Covid Tier 2: Scotch egg is a substantial meal says Gove after labelling it a 'starter'

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is a big fan of scotch eggs.

The hopes of many Tier 2 pubs and drinkers appear to be resting on the outcome of the classic, age old debate: Is a scotch egg a substantial meal or a bar snack?

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has caused confusion by first telling ITV's Good Morning Britain the sausage-coated egg is "probably a starter", before telling ITV News they are a substantial meal.

The debate may seem trivial, but thousands of pubs in Tier 2 areas could risk being fined if they allow alcoholic drinks to be served with a snack that is not considered a substantial meal.

Under Tier 2 restrictions in England - which will cover 57% of the population 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.

Confusion was sparked on Monday, when Environment Secretary George Eustice told LBC radio the snack would constitute a “substantial meal”.

On Tuesday morning, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Mr Gove told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "As far as I'm concerned it's probably a starter. "

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."

Shortly after, he told ITV News: "A scotch egg is a substantial meal."

At the suggestion many consider it a bar snack, Mr Gove responded: "I myself would definitely scoff a couple of scotch eggs if I had the chance, but I do recognise it is a substantial meal".

In the harsher Tier 3, affecting more than 41% of the population, pubs and restaurants can only operate on a takeaway or delivery basis.

Michael Gove tells ITV News a scotch egg is a substantial meal:

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."

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.