Labour calls for “rapid review” into 10pm hospitality curfew

Andrew Kersley

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth has called on the government to carry out a “rapid review” into the effectiveness of the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants brought in by the government to reduce transmission of Covid-19.

In a parliamentary debate this afternoon, the Shadow Health Secretary discussed the new measures introduced last week and declared that customers all “piling out of pubs” at 10pm does not help “contain the spread of the virus”.

Ashworth told the Commons today: “The most recent ONS surveillance report states that eating out was the most commonly reported activity in the two to seven days prior to symptom onset.

“Hospitality accounts for up to one fifth of Covid transmissions. We support the restrictions announced last week but many are now questioning how effective they will be in containing the virus.

“We have seen this weekend pictures of people piling out of pubs at ten o’clock on the dot into busy streets, public transport packed, supermarkets busy as people buy more drink. How does this help contain the spread of the virus?

“Can I ask the Secretary of State to undertake a rapid and transparent review of all the evidence on the 10pm rule and report back to parliament this week?”

The curfew for hospitality venues has been widely criticised as crowds of people have been recorded and pictured gathering in city centres and entering public transport, with long queues forming outside off-licences, after 10pm.

The government also saw pressure from within its own party today, as much of the debate focused on an amendment to the Coronavirus Act tabled by Tory backbencher Graham Brady that would force parliamentary votes on future restrictions.

The Brady amendment has been backed by 52 Tory MPs, enough to defeat the government, plus Labour backbencher John Spellar, who has urged a reduction in restrictions so that the country can “learn to live with” coronavirus.

Commenting on the amendment, Spellar told MPs this afternoon: “At present, it’s not only that we don’t have parliamentary government, we don’t seem to have cabinet government either. Even COBRA is meeting intermittently.

“Policy seems to be being made by a small clique, which seems to comprise the Health Secretary, the Minister for the Cabinet Office… with substantial input from Dominic Cummings and some involvement of a debilitated and marginalised Prime Minister.

“It’s not good constitutional theory and it’s not working in practice, and that’s why parliament needs to take back control.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens said on Sunday that Labour was supportive of the Brady amendment, adding that “the likelihood is that we would back it” if selected for debate by the Speaker.

The Coronavirus Act was introduced by MPs in March to grant government ministers powers to respond to the pandemic for a period of six months. MPs will on Wednesday debate whether the provisions in the legislation should be renewed.

Boris Johnson has announced several new measures over the past two weeks, including the ‘rule of six’ and the curfew. Labour leader Keir Starmer has called out the restrictions as “necessary” but “not inevitable”.

The number of coronavirus cases has seen a significant rise across the UK in recent weeks, with some experts estimating this month that the ‘R rate’ of the virus could be as high as 1.7.

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