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Labour backs mandatory face masks in England’s shops to ‘get confidence back into the system’

Shadow minister Lucy Powell (left) visiting a Brewdog bar with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. (PA)

2 min read

Labour would back making it compulsory for people to wear face masks in shops in England, frontbencher Lucy Powell has said.

The shadow business minister said her party would support a move to make face coverings mandatory in order to “get confidence back into the system” after months of lockdown because of the coronavirus.

New rules came into force in Scotland on Friday requiring shoppers to wear masks inside stores, in addition to wearing them on public transport. 

But in England, masks are only a requirement on transport networks, with government guidance merely recommending their use in shops and enclosed spaces.

On Friday, Boris Johnson hinted that the rules could change, when he said the Government needed to be “stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined place”.

Ms Powell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the Government needed to show “real clarity” on the issue.

And she said: “We do need to get a lot more confidence back in the system.

“And if mandatory wearing of face masks in shops will help to do that, then we absolutely support it.”

“And we think the Government, instead of just kind of showing a bit of leg occasionally on these things by briefing newspapers or saying things that are not clear guidance in press conferences, as the Prime Minister did on Friday, [should] get some clarity.

The shadow minister added: “That's the sort of thing that will really get confidence back into the system and get people feeling that they can go to the shops, they can go to restaurants, they can go to bars.”

Asked whether Labour therefore backs the compulsory use of face masks in shops, Ms Powell said: “Absolutely — and that... is for shops. Obviously, in bars and restaurants, there are different issues there because if you're in a bar in a restaurant you are eating food you are drinking and so on.“

The Labour frontbencher also defended a trip she made last week to a Brewdog bar with leader Sir Keir Starmer in which the pair did not don face masks.

Ms Powell said: “We followed the guidance that is the guidance in Brewdog, where we were on Monday. Obviously, in bars and restaurants, it's not mandatory to wear face masks so that you can eat and drink and be in those locations.”

The call from Labour comes amid reports that ministers are considering a fresh push to boost confidence in the UK’s public transport network after months of advising people to work from home wherever possible.

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