The requirement to wear face coverings in law will be lifted.
However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
[...] As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it is important that we all use personal judgement [...]
The government told us they hoped to see this change in law. As a result, representatives were asked what their personal choice would be. I remember a minister said they would not wear a mask. In fact, three different ministers said they would not. The latest time I heard this was on July 5. This was the same day as a TV briefing from the Prime Minister, where he mentioned the change in law.
Question: On July 6, the Health Secretary was interviewed by the Radio 4 Today programme. Was this the first time a UK government minister said they would wear a mask, if it was no longer legally compulsory?
- 2021-06-24: Chancellor of the Treasury talks to Times newspaper. 'Mr Sunak was asked if he expected to stop wearing a mask when it became legal not do so. "Yes, as soon as possible," he replied.' [BBC News].
- 2021-06-24: Environment Secretary says '"But the objective of that final stage is to remove the legal requirement to do these things." Asked if he would continue to wear a face covering beyond that point, the minister replied: "I wouldn't, no.' [Sky News]
- 2021-07-05: Housing Secretary appears on BBC Marr show, and 'Asked on Sky News about whether he would stop wearing his face mask if the rules allowed, Mr Jenrick said he would, because he did not particularly want to wear one' [BBC News].
- 2021-07-05: Prime Minister gives TV briefing. [Number 10 Youtube channel]. 'The prime minister has confirmed that all legislation regarding face coverings will be repealed at step four of the government's road map'. [Sky News]
- 2021-07-06: Health secretary interviewed on Radio 4 Today. "If I was on crowded tube in London I would wear a mask". [Huffington Post]
I.e. there was some question about why I ask this, in relation to politics. My answer is probably patronising. I didn't fully understand the comments, and I expected it would be difficult for me to improve my understanding of the comments any other way.
I am interested in the government policy about people wearing masks. I was surprised by the relatively close juxtaposition of these ministerial statements. Therefore, I wanted to know if I had missed something. Perhaps there was a retraction or clarification by one of the ministers.
The three ministers announced their personal choice. I did not hear them say they would choose to follow guidance. I did not hear them say this guidance was a possibility.
Law, guidance, and personal choice are three different concepts.[*] At this point, everyone was depressingly familiar with each concept - and occasions where they differ.
Often, a person who asks the public to do a thing, will encourage us by saying that they themself should also do the thing. Conversely: if someone sincerely says they will not do a thing, this appears to suggest they are not in the process of asking you to do the thing. (Or they might apologize afterwards. Or they might say there was an important reason
that they needed to test their eyes).
After writing the question, I heard something that partly explained the situation for me. (Your mileage may vary). There were not enough Conservative MP's who would support extending the law on face masks (or social and business restrictions). Relying on Labour support would erode the PM's support from his MP's. If many Conservative MP's were much less in favour of wearing masks than the general population are, for whatever reason, it makes sense that this could affect Conservative ministers.
I don't specifically know what was up with the Housing Minister. Although, one Conservative minister saying something shocking and inconsistent and not explaining themself, does not leave me as surprised as I was when I started writing this question.
[*] There is also a fourth concept where organisations set requirements for staff, customers etc. For example, public transport in London: "Transport secretary backs London mayor’s rule for compulsory masks on TfL". Many shops will request and recommend it. The three ministers did not allow for this possibility either.