The decision to close down pubs, bars and restaurants across huge swathes of the country was based on data from just 98 pubs, a minister has admitted.
The government is facing a backlash over the potential closures of the hospitality sector as part of new measures aimed to combat the surge in coronavirus cases amid concerns it is spiralling out of control.
But in a briefing by government health officials to a cross-party group of MPs representing the North and Midlands, it emerged that claims that pubs and restaurants were responsible for 29.8% of exposures to COVID-19 were based on data from 98 pubs and 67 cafes and restaurants.
Speaking on LBC on Friday, business minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the move, saying the number was “pretty robust sampling”.
Watch: Why are there plans to shut pubs and restaurants in parts of northern England?
The minister was asked by presenter Nick Ferrari: “So you are prepared to close down a multi-milion pound industry and put millions of jobs at risk, on data from 98 pubs. Seriously?
“A school project would do better than that minister.”
Ferrari also pointed out that there are 47,600 pubs in the UK, but Zahawi defended the move, saying: “I used to work in the survey industry Nick and I can tell you when you do business surveys, 98 or 100 businesses actually is quite a representative sample.”
"People in the hospitality industry wouldn't cross the road to help you if you were on fire": Nick Ferrari confronts business minister Nadhim Zahawi over the potential hospitality shut down based on data "from 98 pubs."@NickFerrariLBC | @nadhimzahawi pic.twitter.com/PxyFI7shm7
— LBC (@LBC) October 9, 2020
He added: “If you’re doing public opinion a thousand interviews is a representative sample.
“I don’t want to get into a debate about representation but that’s actually pretty robust sampling.”
The government’s move has also come under fire from MPs, who have reportedly dubbed the Cabinet Office document a “dodgy dossier”.
“It was very clear to everyone on the call that they had cobbled together this data as a retrospective attempt to justify closing pubs,” one Tory MP told The Sun.
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