Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today called his government’s 10pm curfew “frustrating” as he warns against the prospect of a future national lockdown.
Sunak, who is the cabinet’s leading voice against imposing more stringent Covid restrictions, also denied that his Eat Out to Help Out scheme helped spur the country’s second spike in infections.
On the eve of his first Conservative party conference speech as chancellor, Sunak told The Sun: “I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want to strive for normality and I don’t think it’s wrong for the government to want that for people.”
He added: “Lockdowns obviously have a very strong economic impact, but they have an impact on many other things.
“We have to look at this all in the round and beating coronavirus is important and minimising the harm that it causes is important.
“But there are other things that are important. Kids not being in school for months . . . if university students’ learning is impacted that’s not a good thing.”
Sunak’s comments have driven speculation that he will use his Tory party conference speech today to cosy up to the growing number of Tory MPs that oppose further draconian coronavirus restrictions.
A backbench rebellion last week saw up to 80 Tory MPs prepared to vote against the government extending its emergency coronavirus powers.
However, the amendment that was backed by the rebellion was not chosen by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and Johnson altered the legislation to allow parliamentary scrutiny of future measures implemented at a national level.
Tory MP Steve Baker, one of the most high profile rebels, said that “it is no longer appropriate to curtail our freedoms by ministerial decree”.
Sunak will also reportedly use his speech to say that Labour “have been nowhere in this crisis” and that they “don’t really understand the country they want to govern”.