Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:43 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 5:43 pm, 13th October 2020

I am glad to follow my hon. Friend Bob Seely, but also my hon. Friend Danny Kruger, who spoke earlier, and I will pick up his theme.

I represent constituents in Cornwall, and we are the only part of the country that is a different colour to the rest, because actually we have reducing coronavirus numbers, which is why the 10 o’clock curfew makes no sense. We have talked again this afternoon—I do not want to rehearse everything that has been said, or anything—about consistency, yet we have told pubs they need to close at 10 o’clock but we have done absolutely nothing to curtail the sale of cheap alcohol in supermarkets. Once again, we are seeing the supermarkets doing everything they can to maximise their take on the back of the coronavirus. Those in the pubs that have been told to close are looking out of their window and seeing large groups of people, after curfew, drinking alcohol they have bought in the Co-op, dare I say, or other high street stores and supermarkets.

We know that poor health leads to greater risk of severe covid outcomes and we are concerned with the risk to health because of coronavirus, and the Government are not known to dither or delay, but one area—it is completely relevant—where the Government have dithered and delayed is the introduction of the minimum unit price for alcohol. What the Government could do right now to reassure pubs, which are not affected by that piece of legislation or that tax, is to curtail cheap alcohol sales in supermarkets, which would not only improve people’s health but give the pubs a chance to recover. If the Government are not prepared to change the curfew, they must be prepared to give pubs a fair chance.

The Government are already considering that; they could bring this forward. It would reduce the drinking culture, which is not helping, and improve health outcomes, which would improve people’s chances of surviving coronavirus and increase the Treasury’s income, which has to be something it is very concerned about.

The Government had no restraint in imposing the 10 pm curfew. They have shown that they can move quickly and aggressively when that is needed to protect people’s health. Why do they not do exactly the same and introduce the minimum unit price for alcohol?