Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has defended government plans to introduce further restrictions, insisting there is a “higher risk of transmission” in hospitality settings, though he failed to cite the evidence.

Dowden said there was a “strong evidence base” there was a risk, referencing “academic evidence” from the United States, though when challenged he failing to detail what this was.

In an interview with Sky News’ Kay Burley, he was asked about a legal challenge being mounted against the new restrictions.

He said: “They will find if they challenge the government we do have a robust evidence base.”

When pushed, he refused to reveal the government’s evidence.

He said: “There is a higher risk of transmission in hospitality settings.

“Evidence has come from the United States.”

Though he did not detail it, the evidence Dowden alludes to is thought to be a widely criticised, unpublished study, which sought to persuade MPs that pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are a key source of virus transmission.

The Cabinet Office document relied on a July 2020 report from the US Centres for Disease Control, which found people testing positive for coronavirus were “approximately twice” as likely to have dined at a restaurant in the fortnight before symptoms emerged.

The study involved just 154 coronavirus patients.