Rishi Sunak hints 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants in England will be scrapped post-lockdown

Ashley Cowburn
·3-min read
 (BBC)
(BBC)

Rishi Sunak has hinted the contentious 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants in England will be scrapped when the country returns to regional restrictions post-lockdown in just under a fortnight.

Following intense criticism from scientists on the effectiveness of the measure that was introduced alongside tiered restrictions, the chancellor said it’s “definitely something we’re looking at”.

Dozens of Conservative MPs have also been lobbying the government to scrap or alter the curfew while Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer urged the prime minister to “look again” at the restrictions after images of crowds spilling out onto streets at closing time circulated on social media.

Reports have suggested Boris Johnson is expected to say on Monday that while last orders must be called at 10pm people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks with opening hours extended to 11pm.

It comes as Mr Johnson prepares to sign off a “Covid winter plan” at a meeting of the cabinet on Sunday before presenting his proposals to Parliament on Monday. He is expected to say the national lockdown will come to an end on 2 December and a tougher version of the three tiers of regional restrictions will be brought back.

Asked on BBC’s Andrew Marr programme whether the curfew would “go”, Mr Sunak replied: “It’s definitely something we’re looking at. One of the things we’ve been able to do as we learn is get data, see what works, and see where we can improve things.

“I think it’s fair to say when we introduced the curfew that was something in common with many other countries around the world, but as we’ve learnt more there are opportunities for us to look and refine things and that is one of the things on our list.”

But the prime minister also faces the significant prospect of a Conservative rebellion over his plans as the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), led by the former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, resist the measures.

On Saturday the CRG warned that they "cannot support" a tiered approach unless the Government produces evidence to show measures "will save more lives than they cost".

The warning against the measures inflicting "huge health and economic costs" came in a letter to the prime minister, which the group said had been signed by 70 Conservative MPs and 14 peers, though the group's leaders were the only signatories identified.

However, if Labour decides to support the government, or even abstain on the measures next week, the prime minister’s proposals will be set to clear the Commons.

Downing Street will hope an easing at Christmas, potential vaccines on the horizon and new scientific evidence will lessen the scale of a rebellion, with the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) expected to publish papers on Monday stating that the previous tiers were not strong enough.

But the CRG letter said: "We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions, and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season, only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihood.”

In response Mr Sunak told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday it is “very hard to be precise” on the economic impacts of individual restrictions.

He added: “What you will see next week when we have the spending review, alongside that will be a set of forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility ... which will show the enormous strain and stress our economy is experiencing, the job losses that you mention, the forecasts of what will happen, and it's right that we consider those in the round as we consider the best way to fight the virus."

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