In the most baffling response to the question so far, Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared: “A scotch egg that is served as a substantial meal, that is a substantial meal.”
Some “wet pubs” that do not have restaurants are using imaginative plans to get round the rules, with the Caxton Arms in Brighton offering a pint called the “Substantial Meal” and the Kings Head in Essex launching a “Boris Menu” of £1.99 meals, including a slice of pizza.
Asked about reports of London pubs allowing customers to order takeaways from McDonalds, Mr Hancock said the courts would interpret the law but appealed to pubs to put health first.
"What we need to do is not try to push the boundaries, we all need to take responsibility for our own actions.''
Mr Hancock insisted that pubs knew the rules already, because the law allows 17-year-olds to have a drink with a substantial meal. "A substantial meal is a well-established concept in hospitality,” he said.
Mr Hancock’s existential reply about what makes a meal substantial failed to satisfy UK Hospitality which represents beleaguered pubs and restaurants.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The continued debate amongst Minister about Scotch Eggs highlights the absurdity and arbitrariness of the new regulations - if 3 Ministers cannot answer a simple question about what a pub landlord has to do to comply and earn a living, it suggests that law is not fit for purpose.
“For a business to get it wrong could mean a fine of £10,000 or a closure notice. It would help perhaps if the Health Secretary would publish the evidence justifying the reason why these controls are necessary and why it is ok to drink throughout a two-hour film, theatre performance or sports event but when in a pub it is essential to eat a Scotch Egg to have a drink safely.
“If there is none or if the law is so unclear and confusing, it should be scrapped.”