Tiers vote: MPs APPROVE new Covid-19 regulations as Boris Johnson suffers massive Tory rebellion

Daniel O'Mahony
·4-min read
<p>Boris Johnson suffered the biggest rebellion of his premiership</p> (PA)

Boris Johnson suffered the biggest rebellion of his premiership

(PA)

Boris Johnson suffered the largest backbench rebellion of his premiership on Tuesday after more than 50 Tory MPs voted against the new three-tier system of coronavirus regulations.

The measures were passed by 291 votes to 78, paving the way for 99 per cent of England to be placed under the toughest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions when England’s national lockdown ends at midnight.

But the scale of the Tory revolt, which saw 55 Conservative MPs vote against the motion and 16 abstain, will send political shockwaves less than a year after Mr Johnson won a majority of 80 at the general election.

Sir Keir Starmer had asked his MPs to abstain on the vote, all-but guaranteeing the restrictions would be approved, although 15 Labour MPs eventually voted against the proposals.

There were reports that Mr Johnson had made a last-ditch attempt to convince rebel Tories as they walked through the voting lobbies, after earlier holding all-party Zoom call in an effort to win more votes.

Opening the debate on the tiers system earlier on Tuesday, the Prime Minister also announced a one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to remain closed under the restrictions, though the move was branded “derisory” by the trade.

Mr Johnson acknowledged concerns of a perceived “injustice” in the allocation of tiers but reassured MPs that the Government would look at a more focused approach in the future.

The House of Lords was expected to approve the plans later on Tuesday.

A Government spokesman welcomed MPs voting to approve the new tiered system and said ministers will work with those who expressed concerns.

He said: “We welcome tonight’s vote which endorses our winter plan, brings an end to the national restrictions and returns England to a tiered system.

“This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control.

“We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged concerns of a perceived “injustice” in the allocation of tiers but reassured MPs that the Government would look at a more focused approach in the future.

The House of Lords was expected to approve the plans later on Tuesday.

Most pubs in the country will face hampered trade by the measures.

Those in Tier 2, which will cover 57 per cent of England’s population, will only be able to serve alcohol alongside a “substantial meal” and must obey rules restricting household mixing indoors.

In Tier 3, pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: “A one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to close does not even count as a token gesture.”

The tiers will be reviewed every fortnight and Mr Johnson promised MPs a fresh vote on whether to keep the system before February 2.

Tory backbenchers were outraged that the Government’s impact assessments on the three-tiered system did not include a detailed breakdown of the economic effects of the measures.

Their anger was further compounded by a report in the Times which revealed the existence of a Whitehall dashboard detailing Covid-19’s impact on almost 40 sectors of the economy.

A red rating, which indicates significant job cuts and revenue losses, was said to be against dozens of them, including aerospace, the automotive industry, retail, hospitality, tourism, arts and sport.

The anger on the Tory benches was set out by prominent backbenchers.

Sir Graham Brady, the influential chairman of the 1922 Committee and a Tory MP in Tier 3 Greater Manchester, said: “If Government is to take away fundamental liberties of the people whom we represent, they must demonstrate beyond question that they’re acting in a way that is both proportionate and absolutely necessary.

“Today, I believe the Government has failed to make that compelling case.”

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green, an MP in Tier 3 Kent, said the plans lacked public support, adding: “I’ve had the most angry emails over a weekend since the Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister’s strategy posed a “significant” health risk and it was “highly unlikely” to see restrictions eased in parts of the country before Christmas.

He accused Mr Johnson of “overpromising and under-delivering” by pursuing an approach of short-term decisions that then “bump into the harsh reality of the virus”.

With reporting by PA

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