Calls grow for government to explain logic of 10pm curfew

7 October 2020, 22:22 | Updated: 8 October 2020, 07:19

People across the country are waiting for the government to explain the reasoning behind the 10pm curfew
People across the country are waiting for the government to explain the reasoning behind the 10pm curfew. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Calls are growing across England for the government to explain the logic behind the controversial 10pm curfew.

Businesses, the Labour Party and even some Conservatives are becoming increasingly confused with why the coronavirus measure is still in place.

Since being implemented, the rule has hit an already struggling hospitality sector and has seen hundreds of people stumbling out of pubs and bars all at once to pack tubes, trains and buses across the country.

Hugh Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns and co-founder & former owner of Pizza Express , told Nick Ferrari at breakfast this morning: “There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that most of the infections are happening in restaurants.

"The vast majority are in places like care homes. Three to five per cent have been in restaurants. Where are the vulnerable people?”

Pictures of drinkers queuing up outside off-licences and corner shops to buy more alcohol left many with their heads in their hands at the inevitability of the chaos.

With a vote on the measure due in the Commons next week, and the prospect of a Tory rebellion, the pressure is mounting on the government to explain its reasoning behind the curfew.

Add to that one of Britain's biggest pub chains, Greene King, announcing on Wednesday that it will close at least 25 venues - putting 800 jobs at risk - because of the measure, Boris Johnson must now tell us more.

Read more: Pubs in northern England could face closure 'from Monday'

During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the PM to publish the scientific data behind the government's 10pm curfew restriction ahead of a vote next week.

He asked the UK leader to publish the evidence that shows there is a scientific basis for the restriction for pubs, bars and restaurants, and to "review the rule" if he cannot do so.

Sir Keir said: "The prime minister can't explain why an area goes into restriction, he can't explain what the different restrictions are, he can't explain how restrictions end - this is getting ridiculous.

"Next week, this House will vote on whether to approve the 10pm rule. The prime minister knows that there are deeply-held views across the country in different ways on this. One question is now screaming out: is there a scientific basis for the 10pm rule?"

However, Mr Johnson delivered a non-committal response saying "the basis on which we set out the curtailment of hospitality was the basis on which he accepted it two weeks ago - that is to reduce the spread of the virus and that is our objective."

Sir Keir has since declined to say whether Labour would vote with or against the government when the issue is voted on next week.

The Labour leader told reporters: "The challenge I've put down to the prime minister is to publish the scientific advice, if he's got it then the government should do itself a favour and publish it.

"If he hasn't, he should review the position."

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Tory MP Richard Holden (North West Durham) urged the government to give more information on the curfew.

He said: "My pubs, clubs, restaurants really benefited from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, but they're now really worried about what we're going to do going forward.

"The 10pm curfew, we need to understand why that's in place. People need to hear what the government's saying and the evidence behind it."

Former minister Steve Baker said he would oppose the 10pm curfew, which is "badly evidenced and appears to be counterproductive.

Elsewhere, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the measure was having "the wrong effect" and that it should be down to local authorities to work with businesses in the area.

Last week, Brewdog boss James Brown told LBC he finds the 10pm pub curfew "absolutely bonkers".

"The whole industry is furious about the whole situation," he told Nick Ferrari.

Downing Street has since defended the restriction but officials were unable to highlight any specific scientific evidence of its effectiveness.

Asked what the logic behind the curfew was, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "The curfew was brought forward as part of a package of measures - which should be viewed as just that - and which we believe that, collectively, should have an impact on helping to slow the spread of the virus."

It comes as further measures were announced for Scotland on Wednesday, with Scots facing 16 days of restrictions, including pubs, restaurants and bars being banned from selling alcohol indoors.

Announcing changes to coronavirus measures in Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that indoor hospitality venues will only be allowed to operate between 6am and 6pm daily, selling food and non-alcoholic drinks only.

Outdoor bars, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to remain open up until 10pm and will be allowed to sell alcohol up to that time.

The restrictions will come into force at 6pm on Friday and are intended to end after 25 October.

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