Dido Harding Has Been Asked By MPs To Reveal The Evidence Behind Pub Closures
Coronavirus testing chief Dido Harding is being asked by MPs to provide the evidence behind the new 10pm pub curfew and the decision to only allow table service.
Mike Wood, the chair of Westminster’s largest cross-party interest group, the all-party parliamentary group for beer, said pubs could be financially crippled by the government’s decision to shut them early.
He suggested that if there is evidence from NHS Test and Trace justifying the move, it would be fair for publicans to be able to see it.
On the idea that the disease spreads in pubs, Wood said: “We do need to see the information that they have got that shows why this is much more likely.
“The overwhelming majority of pubs are taking a lot of measures to reduce the risk and increasing cleaning.
“I’ve written to Baroness Harding on behalf of the APPG to ask for more detail on what Test and Trace has shown.”
The APPG has 22 members from across the Commons and Lords and a representative from most political parties. It aims to support the pub and brewing industry.
Wood said the new rules announced by the government would put enormous pressure on pubs, many of which are already in financial difficulty after being closed for so long.
In some small rural areas, he said rather than the reduced hours being the difficulty, it is likely to be impossible to set up table service because of the size of their premises and staffing. He said they might have no alternative to close.
The Treasury may also need to step in to help struggling pubs by extending a grant scheme for the retail and hospitality sector that was delivered through local authorities in April and May, he suggested.
“We are going to need to consider what more is needed because this is going to be lasting much longer than we hoped it would.
“Most of them are operating on a fraction of their former business, few of them are not even breaking even,” he said.
Boris Johnson said in the Commons today reducing pub opening times was a difficult decision but the evidence showed the disease has spread between people at night when more alcohol has been consumed. He said this move could drive down the R-number.
Toby Perkins MP, who chairs the separate all-party parliamentary group for pubs, is also calling on the government to release more information on how they made their decision.
The Labour MP wants ministers to explain to MPs in the Commons what Test and Trace has revealed.
“There are a lot of pubs that have gone to tremendous efforts to be socially distancing and safe places.
“I’d be interested to see the evidence for this. Has the government picked up from actual evidence that people were being careful at the start of the night but less as the drinks flowed?
“The department for health has the data in terms of track and trace and if this decision has come from that then that would be interesting but it’s really a case of them telling us on what basis the decision has been made, then we can scrutinise.”
Outside of Westminster, groups representing the pub trade were also urging government to rapidly release the basis on which the decision over pubs had been made.
Tom Stainer, CAMRA chief executive, said the government’s decision would punish thousands of responsible publicans across England who are providing safe environments for their customers.
“CAMRA is calling on the government to publish the evidence that pubs or restaurants are the source of more transmissions than other sectors across the country – if they aren’t, then why are they being singled out for nationwide restrictions?” he said.