This is more about showing how badly thought out, and how badly drafted, these laws are.
Laws being brought in on emergency powers with almost no notice and zero parliamentary scrutiny. There is no excuse for this. The stages of relaxing lock down could have been considered, with the relevant legislation, months ago and agreed by parliament with agreed levels when each stage would come in to law. That would have meant everyone impacted by the changes would know what to expect well in advance, and the police would know what laws were coming so they could police them. Importantly the objectives and wording of each stage could have had careful scrutiny to avoid the stupid errors that we have seen in version after version of these laws.
However, today's new legislation is here. I.e. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 as of 15th June 2020.
It includes a little gem on linked households, a fun new concept. Basically, this extends the idea of a household to allow two households to be linked. That then allows them to have indoor gatherings with members of both households and even allows sleep overs at either house, which is what some people have been eagerly await for obvious reasons.
This sounds simple enough at first glance - ignoring children, two households (where one is only one person) can be linked if all the adults agree. Once linked you stay linked unless the rules for allowing linking break. Once unlinked, that is it, you can't link to any other household, a sort of link-ban, forever! What is hard to understand?
Well, there are several layers of issue here :-
Which household to choose, and who is left out?
Even taking the rules entirely as intended this poses problems. My household is 5 adults, and we know, between us, several other single person households with which we may want to be linked. Which do we choose? Who do we piss off by not choosing. How do we all agree on which we choose (as required). When do we choose - as this is permanent, do we wait until we need to have a link because we want to have someone at one or other household? What if we choose too soon and want to change our mind?
Does this make for the new chat up line: "how would you like to link households with me?", or the new euphemism "those two are linked households"?
No changing your mind, or is there?
There is no changing your mind - the rules are clear - even causing the link to terminate does not then allow linking by either household with any other.
Well, we assume not - but could you get a link annulled? perhaps on the basis that is was not consummated, by which I mean there was never an indoor gathering with members of both households present, i.e. there was no reliance on the linked household for any activity to be legal. Surely that would be valid, and as not terminating the link, it would allow the households to pick others to now link with maybe? Nothing outlaws that, does it? It basically does no mention that possibility. When is the link created - when parties agree the link? or when parties rely on the link to be legal in what they are doing (sleep over?). Or is it when they are caught relying on the link to be legal in what they are doing?
No record of linked households - Schrödinger's link?
Of course the issue of annulling a link is not really important - if all members agree that they are no longer linked, then who is to say that they ever were? Only if everyone is prepared to say they were linked, or had that on some sort of record, it only takes one person to say "we never agreed to be a linked household" and you cannot really prove the households were linked. So if you did link households, and then decide to change your mind, what is basically to stop you?
Essentially, until you are caught out you do not have to say you are a linked household.
This, of course, opens some issues. If two households are linked, and someone is caught, i.e. seen by nosy neighbours entering someone else's house, then they can say they were linked with them (assuming one or other of the households is a single person, and so allowed). But that only really works if all members of the household agree. If even one of them says it is not agreed, the link did not happen, and you are nicked (fined). So now there is an opportunity, if you are questioned over such activity, for it to be worth something to you for the people in the household to agree the households were linked. A chance for blackmail, at least to the value of the fine.
What is a household even?
Defining an household should not be hard, and was not that important before. Essentially it is pretty obvious, a group of people all living in the same house. But the new rules create a state related to households, the state of being linked, and that means it matters what a household is, and was, and how it may change, or be created or dissolved and if that state moves or persists. It is not quite so simple is it? Remember, that moving house has been allowed all along, but assumed that simply staying over night is not moving house one day and moving back the next, so it is presumed you have to move house for several days at least to have actually moved house.
To add to the fun, children are exclude from the counts in the households. Except that there is a magic grey area. The single household can have children that are 18 after 12th June, and still count as children. However the other household which has no limits on number of adults could find they have an extra adult for a child becoming 18 after 12th June, and that adult has to have agreed to the link for it to be valid. What if they now don't agree, or did not agree when they were a minor. Why have children defined at a date for one part of the rules and not another part?
Moving house is perhaps the biggest issue with this, and the whole concept of a household.
Let's make a scenario in order to try and work this out. Again, ignoring children.
- Single household A is linked with two person household B
- Single household C is linked with three person household D
- There is an empty house E
So, some questions to consider and not all answered by the law. What is the answer I wonder?
Person from house B moves to house A. This is clearly that they have left one household and joined another. Household B is now the remaining person from household B. Household A is now the group of A and that person. The two households meet the requirements for linking still (one is single) and assuming they all agree, they stay linked. Good, something pretty clear and obvious.
Person from house D moves to house C. This is clearly that they have left one household and joined another. Household D is now the remaining people from household D. Household C is now the group of C and that person. Now the two households are no longer allowed to be linked as there is not a single person household, so the link is broken and both households are now link-banned. Note that this person could sleep over at household C, but somehow need to make sure that they don't move house to household C if they want to stay linked. Fine line?
Person from house D moves to house B. This is clearly that they have left one household and joined another. Household D is now the remaining people from household D. Household B is now the members of B and the person that moved. Both the A-B and C-D linked households remain valid as they each have one single person household. Is that true under this law?
Person from house A moves to house C. This is clearly that they have joined a new household, and household C is now both of them. This breaks the A-B link as A no longer has a single person (it has none, does it even exist any more), so A and B are link-banned. This breaks C-D link (as C is no longer a single person), so C and D are link-banned.
Person from house A moves to house D. This is clearly that they have joined a new household, and household D is now all four of them. This breaks the A-B link as A no longer has a single person (it has none, does it even exist any more), so A and B are link-banned. This does not break the C-D link. However, now, as this person is part of the C-D linked household, a sleepover at household C is allowed as long as it is not moving house. Now, try explaining how this is different to the scenario above where this person moved to house C. They are in the same place, but the C-D link now remains. This is an anomaly.
Person from house A moves to empty house E. Is this moving from one household to another, and so the A-B link is broken? Or has household A moved, and the A-B link (now E-B) remains?
If we consider in the above that the A-B link is broken, is the now empty house A still a household, and still link-banned. If someone now moves in to household A, are they now link-banned, or could they link to another household? Does that impact then house price of house A?
If we consider the house itself to hold the household when empty, what happens if link A-B is broken. A and B are link-banned. What if person in house A moves to household D? Do they carry the link-ban with them and so break the C-D link, or are they just part of the linked household D now? What if they then move to empty house E? Have they created a new household, or is their original house A link-ban still attached to them? What if they move back to house A, are they link-banned?
Basically there is zero way the police could police this. At best they could come down on an obvious "house party" or group of people from several households, and take some action as an illegal indoor gathering. They almost certainly need to be in a case where we are talking more than two households to have any chance of it suddenly being a linked household they are looking at.
Laws that cannot possibly be policed are bad, and this is an example of bad in so many ways.