When did this local lockdown start?
In June 2020, the Government announced country-wide restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19 would be relaxed in most of England. However, at the same time it announced new local restrictions would be necessary in Leicester. This followed high numbers of people in this area testing positive for the disease. Under these new rules, non-essential retail businesses would remain closed. Schools would also remain closed, except for vulnerable children and those of key workers. Restrictions were also placed on public and social gatherings.
Leicester was the first area in the country subject to a so-called ‘local lockdown’. Subsequent local lockdowns include those in Blackburn with Darwen, in Luton and other parts of the North of England. An overview of these measures in England has been published by the House of Lords Library.
The local lockdown in Leicester was implemented by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/685). It was a ‘made affirmative’ instrument, meaning it came into force immediately and had to be approved by both Houses if it was to remain in force. This was laid before both Houses on 3 July 2020 and came into force the following day. It was then approved by both Houses before the 2020 summer recess. Further information on this instrument and some of the initial amendments to it is provided in a House of Lords Library In Focus article, published in July 2020.
How have the rules changed?
Following the initial regulations coming into force, the Government made several changes to Leicester’s local lockdown rules. These were all made through statutory instruments subject to the made affirmative procedure.
Over the course of July and early August 2020, the following three changes were made to the original regulations:
- On 18 July 2020, the size of the area in which the local lockdown was in force was reduced so that it covered only the City of Leicester and the Borough of Oadby and Wigston.
- On 24 July 2020 some of the restrictions were lifted. This included allowing some non-essential retail premises to open.
- On 1 August 2020, the geographic boundary of the lockdown was further reduced to only include the City of Leicester, removing the Borough of Oadby and Wigston.
The Government then revoked the original statutory instrument and introduced new regulations in its place. The Government argued this was necessary because the changes it had planned were “quite substantial”. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/824) came into force on 3 August 2020. This maintained the local lockdown covering the City of Leicester. However, it further relaxed the restrictions to allow further businesses to open, including restaurants, cafes and bars.
This new statutory instrument was then amended as follows:
- After a review on 17 August, the Government said the number of Covid-19 cases were decreasing in the local lockdown area. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/875) were introduced and came into force on 19 August 2020. These allowed further businesses to open, including spas and beauty salons, massage parlours and tattoo parlours, outdoor swimming pools and water parks.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, Leicester, and North of England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/954) came into force 8 September 2020. These enabled businesses including indoor swimming pools, indoor fitness and dance studios, indoor gyms, and sports courts and facilities to reopen.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/987) came into force on 15 September 2020. This allowed for the reopening of further businesses, such as casinos, indoor skating rinks, indoor play areas (including soft play areas) and bowling alleys.
Following these changes, most of the local lockdown restrictions in Leicester have been lifted. However, certain restrictions remain concerning gatherings. People are unable to meet someone from another household in an indoor public venue. This is in addition to the new restriction on meeting in a group of more than six, which came into force in England on 14 September. The Government has confirmed a further review of the regulations is scheduled to take place on 25 September 2020.
The use of made affirmative instruments implementing and then amending the local lockdown rules has meant both Houses have had to debate regulations after they have been amended. For example, The House of Lords debated the initial local lockdown regulations for Leicester on 29 July 2020. This was after the first two amendments had been made to the original rules, on 18 and 24 July. As the original statutory instrument was repealed in August during the summer recess, these and subsequent amendments were never debated in their own right.
On 24 September 2020, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 and the first set of changes implemented on 19 August 2020. These statutory instruments are scheduled to be debated in a delegated legislation committee meeting in the House of Commons on 21 September 2020.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, Leicester, and North of England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 are scheduled to be debated separately in the Lords on 25 September 2020. A date has not been set for a debate in the Commons. The most recent change to the local lockdown rules introduced on 15 September 2020 has yet to have a date scheduled for debate in either House.
The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee has not drawn any of these statutory instruments to the attention of the House. However, it has published summaries as part of its overview of Covid-19 statutory instruments.
Reactions to lockdown in Leicester
The Government has been criticised for the way in which it introduced and subsequently made changes to the local lockdown legislation. During the debate in the House of Lords on the original lockdown regulations on 29 July 2020, Baroness Thornton (Labour) argued the Government had told the press that a local lockdown would be introduced in Leicester before speaking to the local authorities concerned, the local police or NHS. Lord Bethell, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, argued the Government had been working with local councils. He said Leicester City Council had received financial support worth approximately £2.5 million and Leicestershire County Council had received approximately £2.3 million.
On 15 September 2020, the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, argued the Government should remove the remaining restrictions in place in the city. He said it was unclear from the Government what further reductions in the infection rate were needed, arguing there was “no reason for Leicester to be treated any differently to anywhere else”.
- House of Lords Library, ‘Local lockdowns: The legislative framework in England’, 7 September 2020
- House of Lords Library, ‘Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020’, 24 July 2020
- House of Lords Library, ‘Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford local lockdown’, 18 September 2020
- House of Lords Library, ‘Covid-19: Lockdown legislation for the north of England’ 18 September 2020
Image by NotFromUtrecht on Wikimedia.