Bishop of Rochester voices concern about effect of covid ‘rule of six’ on family life

On 6th October the House of Lords approved the Government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020. A further motion to ‘regret’ the Regulations was put by Lord Lamont of Lerwick on grounds of “the failure of Her Majesty’s Government adequately to consult the public in the preparation of the Regulations and the impracticality of enforcing the measures”. The Bishop of Rochester spoke in the debate on both Motions:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, like others, I tend to think that carrots are more effective than sticks. It is, therefore, vital, if people are to behave as the Government might wish, that they understand and assent to the reasons for particular restrictions.

My understanding of the rationale for the rule of six is that is about restricting the mixing of households. I understand that, and I seek, in my role and personally, to abide by that principle. But what the Minister has said notwithstanding, the anomalies do not help to gain that consent. If I have understood things correctly, I may, in a given period, be a part of more than one group of six, and thereby, I am multiplying the households with which I have contact. Yet, as many have observed—and there are other examples—a couple with three children cannot meet with two grandparents at the same time, even though that would only be two households in most instances.

I genuinely worry about the effect of these regulations, particularly the rule of six, on the long-term flourishing of family life and cohesion, if they persist for too long. My simple point is that the rule of six gives a kind of cliff edge, which could surely be graduated without compromising the principle about household mixing. I rather hope that Her Majesty’s Government will be able to think creatively about how that might be done.

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