Keir Starmer has announced ahead of a vote on the 10pm Covid hospitality curfew that the Labour Party will not oppose the measure introduced by the government to curb the spread of the virus.
In an interview this afternoon, the Labour leader said there is “growing concern about the 10pm curfew” and added that there needs to be reform of the restriction to hospitality business opening hours.
But Starmer added: “The problem with the vote next week is it’s an up down, take it or leave it vote – and if you vote down the current arrangements, there won’t be any restrictions in place.
“That’s not what we want, so we won’t be voting down the restrictions in place. But we do say to the government: reform the 10pm review, show us the evidence, do it in a much smarter way.”
The Labour leader highlighted problems reported in recent weeks since the curfew was introduced, including that hospitality customers have been gathering together in large numbers outside pubs and bars after the early closing time.
He declared: “I want the government to acknowledge that the 10pm curfew isn’t working as well as they might have anticipated. Lots of people spilling out of venues at the same time, there’s been lots of concern about it.”
He emphasised that there is a “smarter way” to implement a curfew and urged Downing Street to look at the 10pm measure under Labour in Wales, which is a “drinking-up time” rather than when guests are forced to leave.
Starmer echoed his previous comments on the government’s Covid strategy, arguing for a review of local measures in light of rising infection rates and calling for more control in the pandemic to be devolved to local authorities.
He said: “There’s deep concern across the country. What we’ve seen is lots of local areas in added restrictions. In 19 of the 20 areas that have been in restrictions for two months, the infection rate is still going up.
“We need that rapidly reviewed and we need something done about it. I think the constructive thing is for the government to accept the argument that trace and isolate, the vital part of the system, needs to be under local control.”
The Labour leader told the public this afternoon that “local leaders have been asking for this for months”, and warned that “unless that is fixed, we will struggle to get control over this virus”.
'There needs to be involvement of local leaders'@Keir_Starmer has criticised the government's handling of local lockdowns, saying the "constructive thing" to do is "accept the argument that trace and isolate" needs to be under "local control".
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 8, 2020
Starmer’s comments today followed his questions on the early closing time in parliament on Wednesday, during which he called on Boris Johnson to publish the “scientific basis” for the measure introduced in September.
Professor and SAGE member John Edmunds told BBC Newsnight this week that he does not believe the curfew can “turn the epidemic around”, adding: “I really don’t think [the 10pm curfew] does anything.”