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Boris Johnson must set out the scientific evidence behind the introduction of further lockdown measures in England, Keir Starmer has said, hinting his party could vote against implementing the 10pm hospitality curfew if the government fails to provide further evidence.
Labour’s threat came as the former minister Steve Baker said he and other Conservative MPs would vote against the curfew when the measure to approve it comes before parliament.
On Wednesday afternoon, the scheduled vote was removed from the House of Commons’ agenda for next Monday, which suggested the government has pulled the vote as it works to contain the rebellion.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions, the Labour leader highlighted figures showing a rapid rise in infection rates in England in areas under harsher restrictions, saying it was “obvious something has gone wrong here”.
Starmer said the country was owed an explanation of the rationale behind key restrictions. “The prime minister can’t explain why an area goes into restrictions. He can’t explain what the different restrictions are, and he can’t explain how restrictions end. This is getting ridiculous,” he said.
“Next week this house will vote on whether to approve the 10pm rule. One question is now screaming out: is there a scientific basis for the 10pm rule? If there is then why doesn’t the government do itself a favour and publish it? And if not why doesn’t the government review the rule?”
He said the government should “commit to publishing the scientific basis for the 10pm rule before this house votes on it”.
More than a dozen Conservative MPs have signalled they could also withhold support for approving the curfew, meaning the regulation could lapse if the government loses the vote next week.
Labour also highlighted that 19 out of 20 areas in England under restrictions for two months had reported increasing infection rates:
Bolton, which has been under restrictions since 30 July, where the infection rate has increased almost 13 times from 20 per 100,000 people to 255.
Burnley, which has been under restrictions since 31 July, has an infection rate that has risen from 21 per 100,000 people to 434.
Bury, which has been under restrictions since 31 July, has an infection rate of 266 per 100,000 people, up from 20.
“The prime minister really needs to understand that local communities are angry and frustrated. So will he level with the people of Bury, Burnley and Bolton and tell them what does he actually think the problem is here?” Starmer said.
Johnson hit back at Starmer, saying Labour had failed to back a vote overnight to approve the rule of six. “What we are doing is a combination of national and local measures which one week he comes to the house to support and the next he decides to whisk away,” he said. “That’s not new leadership, that’s no leadership.”
Labour has not yet committed to voting against the approval of the 10pm curfew but a significant number of both Labour and Conservative MPs have said they do not support the measure.
On Tuesday night, 12 Tory MPs voted against approving the “rule of six” regulation, which limits social gatherings. Rebels included the chair and a vice-chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady and Charles Walker, a select committee chair, Huw Merriman, and the former cabinet minister Esther McVey.
Baker, one of the key critics of the government’s lockdown measures who is known for his successful organising abilities to block unpopular government measures, said he wanted to work to come to a different settlement with the government.
Speaking to ITV, Baker said the curfew was “wrecking the hospitality industry, which we only just pumped lots of taxpayers money into with eat out to help out.”
He added: “I expect to vote against it because it’s badly evidenced and appears to be counterproductive.” Baker said he did not intend to speak publicly about the vote for the next few days “to give the government space to revise what they’re doing”.
No 10 refused to say whether it would publish any further scientific advice. Johnson’s spokesman said: “The purpose of the package of measures we brought forward was to seek to limit the number of social contacts that were taking place, and therefore seek to limit the transmission.
“The prime minister, the health secretary, and others set out the case for the package of measures, which they brought forward. And I’m sure that they will continue to make the argument as to why we need to bear down on this virus, because we need to protect the NHS and to save lives.
“We continue to believe that the package that we have in place is the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods. And we are trying to keep as much of the economy open as possible.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Keir Starmer urges PM to set out evidence for new lockdown measures | World news