Keir Starmer says party will NOT vote against 10pm curfew

What DOES Labour want on lockdown? Keir Starmer says his party will NOT join Tory backbench revolt to vote against the 10pm curfew but demands it is ‘reformed’, and fudges over local restrictions

Keir Starmer today refused to back Tory rebels threatening to vote down the hated 10pm pub curfew today – but also remanded it be scrapped.

The Labour leader had been thought to be leaning his party towards opposing the highly contentious measure when it comes before MPs in the Commons on Tuesday.

But he confirmed this afternoon that his party would not go against the move because if it was voted down next week it would leave no restrictions in place at all.

However, he continued to insist that the plan must be updated because it was not helping the fight against coronavirus cases increasing across Britain.

Speaking to Sky News in Wiltshire, Mr Starmer said: ‘There is a vote next week, the problem with the vote next week is that it is an up-down, take-it-or-leave-it vote and therefore if you vote down the current arrangements there won’t be any restrictions in place. 

‘That is not what we want so we won’t be voting down the restrictions in place.

‘But we do say to the government: reform the 10pm curfew, show us the evidence, do it in a much smarter way.’

It came as Mr Johnson faced fury from Northerners and a massing Tory revolt today after it emerged he will plunge 10million people in Covid hotspots into even tougher lockdown restrictions next week, shutting pubs and restaurants. 

Sir Keir confirmed this afternoon that his party would not vote against the curfew because if it was voted down next week it would leave no restrictions in place at all

The Labour leader had been thought to be leaning his party towards opposing the highly contentious measure imposed last month by Boris Johnson (pictured right, today)  when it comes before MPs in the Commons on Tuesday

The Commons will debate and vote on Tuesday on the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants in England, a measure the government says is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, but which critics say is harming the hospitality industry.

The curfew was introduced across England last month, and has swiftly become a focus for anger in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, with many saying there is no evidence for a measure that could end up forcing local pubs and restaurants out of business.

Downing Street confirmed the vote today, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying: ‘The Leader of the House has set out the business for next week. What you can see from that is we expect a debate and a vote to take place on the floor of the House next Tuesday in relation to the issue of the 10pm closing time.’

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg today said the debate would come on Tuesday, setting the scene for a possible showdown between government and so-called rebels in the governing party.

‘The government took the decision to move the debate to the floor of the house in recognition of the level of demand for the debate, so we are being responsive to what is being asked for and ensuring proper scrutiny,’ Mr Rees-Mogg told Parliament.

Mr Starmer originally backed the curfew when it was introduced a month ago.

In a televised address the day after Mr Johnson revealed his plans to the nation, he said: ‘The picture presented by the Government’s medical advisers this week was stark and clear.

‘Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are increasing. And we know from bitter experience where that could lead.

‘That’s why the Government had to introduce further restrictions last night. We support this. And I urge everyone to follow the new guidance and the rule of law.’

But today he said that a new plan was needed.

‘There is growing concern about the 10pm curfew and lots of examples of everybody coming out of venues at the same time and causing a problem with the way people are exiting,’ he told Sky.

‘We need this reform, there is a smarter way of doing this. In Wales they have a different set up which is working much, much better. So it needs to be reformed.’

The PM has signed off a new ‘traffic light’ system of curbs for England after days of bitter wrangling between ministers and scientists, with a swathe of the country where infections have been surging facing the harshest Tier Three level.

The mechanism for classifying ‘red’ zones are still unclear, but they are expected to cover Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle – three cities that have continued to see infection rises despite local lockdowns.

Hospitality businesses are set to be shut under the new measures, likely to be confirmed Monday and imposed from Wednesday, but shops, offices and schools will stay open.

Ministers are still mulling the fate of hairdressers and leisure facilities – but Chancellor Rishi Sunak will bring forward a special furlough-style compensation scheme for workers and firms hammered by the curbs.

Conservative MPs and local leaders in the North have been venting fury about the government’s stance, with former minister Jake Berry accusing the premier of being ‘London-centric’ and enjoying his sweeping emergency powers ‘a little bit too much’.

Politicians in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield raged at ‘diktats announced without notice’ and said ministers were treating the North like a ‘petri dish for experimentation’ while the South gets off lightly.

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