The Government has delayed a scheduled Commons vote on the 10pm pubs curfew, which was due tonight (Wednesday October 7), and is expected to take place at a later yet unspecified date.
It follows speculation over the last 24 hours that a number of Conservative MPs would vote against the order that all pubs, bars and restaurants in England must close early, amid claims the curfew is damaging local economies and not based on scientific evidence.
Labour had asked for ministers to publish the scientific evidence justifying the measure.
One of the main Tory rebels, MP Steve Baker, said: ‘We’re hearing about people who are being destroyed by this lockdown, strong, confident people, outgoing people, gregarious people who are being destroyed and reduced to repeated episodes of tears on the phone. ‘This is a devastating social impact on our society, and I believe that people would make different choices were they the ones able to take responsibility for themselves.’
Mr Barker earlier conceded that the Government was unlikely to be defeated but said backbenchers were hoping to convince ministers to change their position with discussions ongoing behind the scenes.
Tory Sir Christopher Chope, one of the rebels, was cited by The Daily Telegraph as saying that the Government was running scared, with MPDehenna Davison, MP for Bishop Auckland, urging the Government to help struggling hospitality firms, as she grilled Treasury Ministers in the House of Commons.
New Forest MP Sir Desmond Swayne told Matt Hancock in the Commons late last month that the curfew was “unfair” in areas with low infection rates, and that losing an hour of business prevents restaurants from having a second sitting and pubs from being profitable.
A similar warning was issued by Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy, who represents the City of Durham.
Ms Davison said the Government’s actions to save jobs so far had provided “a lifeline for millions of hard-working people, but in local lockdown areas like across the North East, hospitality businesses are really struggling with restrictions like the 10pm curfew and the lack of households being able to meet for a meal and a pint.”
She asked Treasury Minister Steve Barclay “please to look at how he can potentially offer some additional financial support to some of these businesses that have seen their takings drop through no fault of their own.”
UKHospitality has urged MPs to rethink the 10pm curfew which is crippling hospitality businesses.
Giving evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Committee yesterday , UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls highlighted the damaging effect the restriction has had on a sector which is already on the brink.
Declining revenues since the introduction of the curfew have already led to business closures, with the increased potential for further failures. Staff shifts have had to be removed to accommodate the early closing time, putting workers at further risk of job losses.
The lack of a staggered closing time in England and Scotland has also created a potentially dangerous pinch point as customers are forced to leave venues en masse.
UKHospitality has called for a complete rethink of the curfew which is crippling a sector already struggling to survive and repeated calls for a comprehensive package of support to safeguard businesses and jobs.
Speaking after the session, UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The introduction of the curfew has had a severe and devastating impact.
“Businesses are feeling the cumulative impact of all the restrictions placed on them, but they have really suffered since the introduction of the curfew. The curfew has wiped away revenue from businesses that were only just clinging on. For many, it has tipped them into financial unviability.
“We have no staggered ending like we have seen in Ireland and Wales. Other European countries have a later curfew point, with last orders at 11 and closure at 12, which eases the pressure.
“The Regulatory impact on businesses needs to be considered, particularly when so a low number of outbreaks are linked to hospitality. We urge the Government to rethink the curfew so that it can deliver the public health objective without damaging businesses and risking further job losses. We also need an immediate and comprehensive package of support to keep businesses alive and prevent redundancies on a large scale.”