Sir Keir StarmerThe decision to publicly declare itself in favor of a rethinking of the mandatory 22:00 closing time for pubs (see 16:09) must worry No. 10. Given what Conservative MPs think about the rule, it is now difficult to see how the government could win a vote on the issue.
Fortunately, they don’t have to. The new regional restrictions, such as those announced today, are not subject to pre-voting in the House of Commons, and the concession offered by ministers yesterday promised only pre-emptive votes on “significant national measures … where possible”.
But it would be surprising if someone didn’t find a way to organize a vote at 10pm in the coming months. And, judging by what Conservative MPs were saying to Commons this morning during Matt Hancock’s statement, the government whips would find a struggle to win a status quo vote. Opposition MPs were also very critical, but this was less surprising.
Several Tories complained that there was no justification for the 10pm rule. Greg Clark, the former secretary of affairs who chairs the Commons science committee, said:
It seems strange to think that concentrating trade in fewer hours and forcing everyone to leave a pub or restaurant at the same time, rather than space them out over the course of the evening, should suppress rather than spread the virus.
Lee Anderson he was a bit blunt, asking Hancock to explain “New Cross staff and regulars how science has guided the decision to close pubs at 10pm.” Mike Wood he also asked for evidence for the policy, saying data from Public Health England suggests that only 3% of infections are related to hospitality.
Philip Davies he firmly opposed the rule in principle, describing it as part of “an arbitrary socialist nanny-state approach, which serves no purpose other than to further collapse the economy and erode our freedoms.”
Several Tories have expressed their opposition to the rule by suggesting revisions. Sir Desmond Swayne The suggested curfew could be imposed locally, perhaps even pub by pub. Caroline Ansell these measures should also be localized. Jane Hunt the suggested places could be exempted if people were still eating a hot meal, to allow for second sessions. Jeremy Wright suggested that hotel bars should be able to serve residents after 10pm.
Other Tories, including Paul Bristow, Lee Anderson, Andrew Jones is Karl McCartney, expressed its concern asking for a guarantee that the standard was subject to revision. Felicity Buchan, who represents Kensington in London, said 10pm was particularly uncomfortable for his constituents. She said:
I have many residents who only go out for the first time at 8.30am or 9am, so it’s not part of the idea of going to the pub at 6 o’clock.
IS Tom Hunt asked for a review citing a particularly offended owner. He said:
Last weekend, I spoke to the owner of the Belstead Arms in Chantry, who had to watch as many of his loyal customers, who would have spent hundreds of pounds in his pub supporting the pub to bounce back from the previous block, went off license. across the street to buy beer from there. Will [Hancock] make sure he will review measures as soon as possible and make sure the Ipswich pubs can stay open later?
Hancock he repeatedly stated that the rule was being kept in check. In Whitehall, saying that a policy is under review can mean either that it is actually under review or that it is only theoretically, which means that it is not. At first Hancock sounded like someone using the phrase in the latter sense, as a ritual fob-off, but in the end he may have concluded that a real rethink will be needed.