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The Labour leader told the Government last week his party would not vote on the 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new three-tier restrictions will be voted on in the House of Commons today. The new rules have sparked concerns over people losing their livelihoods in the hospitality sector and the economic damage a new lockdown will cause to the UK. A number of Labour MPs also believe Sir Keir should toughen up his opposition to Mr Johnson’s plans, rather than just abstain.
Former shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said he would oppose the 10pm curfew if given the option.
The MP for Denton and Reddish in Greater Manchester said: “They just have to be seen to be doing something and this is the easy hit.
“But speaking to [local health officials], they’re all saying exactly the same: that the 10pm curfew has been completely counterproductive because … you’re diverting people away from Covid-secure businesses, where there’s table service, there’s social distancing, there’s mask-wearing, where there’s track and trace. And there’s enforcement powers.
“Everybody’s spilling out at the same time, they’re all getting on buses or waiting for taxis in a non-Covid-secure way, they’re going to the supermarket and getting a load of booze, and then they’re going to each other’s houses drinking it.”
John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley in the West Midlands, feared the new curfews could result in some businesses being closed for months.
He called for more clarification on why a curfew is the answer.
He said: “Nothing I’ve seen … seems to show that they have come up with that evidence.
“I’m waiting to see how this evolves, as it becomes clearer and clearer that the government don’t know what they’re doing – and this is clear not just to Labour members, but to a great number of Tory members as well … There are no good grounds now for bailing this government out.”
Mr Johnson announced yesterday different areas of the country will be split up into “medium”, “high” or “very high” local coronavirus alert areas depending on their rates of transmission.
The restrictions in “medium” risk areas will mean people are subjected to the current national guidance, such as the “Rule of Six” and the 10pm hospitality curfew.
In the tier two “high” alert areas, households will not be allowed to mix indoors.
And Liverpool entered the tier three, “very high” area, meaning social mixing will be prohibited indoors and in private gardens.
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Sir Keir admitted his own scepticism over the curfew as it did not appear to be “working”.
He said: “I doubt there’s any real scientific basis behind it.
“It isn’t working as it was intended because it was a hard stop and you’ve seen loads of examples of people going out on to the streets.”
He added his party would abstain as MPs would only get a yes/no vote, rather than the chance to make changes.
He said: “We won’t vote against it because in the end we are voting against a restriction and then there’s nothing in its place.”
Mr Johnson defended his new measures by saying COVID cases had gone up four times in four weeks and more people were in hospital.
He said: “These figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet and we must act now.”
Mr Johnson added the Government could still impose more restrictions if local politicians did not agree to new measures.
He said: “If we can’t get agreement, then clearly it is the duty of national government to take the necessary action to protect the public and public health and we will.”
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