Matt Hancock has added to confusion over whether the government is expecting people to report each other for failing to self-isolate by saying he would snitch on his own neighbours.
Hancock said he would call the police on a neighbour if he knew they were flouting coronavirus rules on self-isolation.
His comments come as the government unveiled plans to fine people up to £10,000 if they are found to be ignoring self-isolation rules.
But the Health Secretary also appeared to contradict Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s previous suggestion that people should speak to rule-breakers before reporting them to police in what he dubbed “sneak culture”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Hancock said: “We’re extremely clear that people must follow the rules and if they don’t then we are bringing in this much more stringent enforcement.”
The new rules, enforced from September 28, will see fines for breaking self-isolation rules start at £1,000 and rise to £10,000 for repeat offenders.
Hancock said the NHS Test and Trace system would identify some people who were ignoring the rules but was pressed by Marr on whether information would rely on “surveillance” or people “dobbing in” neighbours or co-workers.
Asked if he would report his own neighbour to police for breaking the rules, he said: “Yes, and for the self-isolation part that is absolutely necessary because that is how we break the chain of transmission.”
Earlier this week, Boris Johnson urged people to speak with rule-breakers before notifying authorities.
He told The Sun: “I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself”, and said members of the public should not report their neighbours for breaching the the ‘rule of six’ unless they are having large parties.
Social gatherings of more than six people is now against the law in England in both indoor and outdoor settings, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they break the rule.
But the government has been accused of mixed messaging over various coronavirus rules - with the Prime Minister’s comments coming after Home Secretary Priti Patel had taken the same position as Hancock, saying she would report breaches of coronavirus legislation by neighbours.