Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

MPs approve new three tier coronavirus system despite Tory rebellion fears

The new three tier alert level system for England has been passed in the Commons, despite plenty of resistance from Conservative backbenchers.

Tory rebels worried about the impact the new measures would have on the economy met at lunchtime to decide how they would vote.

One told the Telegraph more than 40 were planning on voting against the ‘very high’ tier three, with around 20 planning to oppose other measures.

As MPs spent hours debating the system, Boris Johnson was on a Zoom call to members of the 1992 Committee of Tory backbenchers.

Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Education Chris Green stepped down from his role, arguing local lockdown measures haven’t worked in his constituency of Bolton West & Atherton.

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Tweeting a picture of his resignation letter, he said: ‘The Bolton lockdown has clearly not worked, and I believe that the cure is worse than the disease, so I have stepped down from my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary.’

Conservative MP for Wakefield Imran Khan was among the MPs who said he would rebel against the Government’s proposals.

He said: ‘The measures before the House which seek to arrest the spread of Covid-19 will cripple Wakefield’s economy recovery and for many businesses sound their death knell.

‘There is no silver bullet, and without one, although difficult, we must learn to live with the virus. The continued peaks and troughs are unsustainable and offer false hope.’

He said he would ‘reconsider and vote with the Government’ if a more geographically granular model was used when placing areas into a certain tier.

He added: ‘Without such assurances, I fear these measures would, for Wakefield, be a death by 1,000 cuts.

‘I cannot look my constituents in the eye if I have voted for measures that break them.’

But despite all the fuss, a vote on the motion was not forced, as none of them voiced their opposition to it – known as being passed ‘on the nod’.

Labour MPs were told they could have a free vote on the issue, but their leader Sir Keir Starmer has demanded tougher measures, calling for a national two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to get soaring coronavirus cases back under control.

There was a Tory rebellion on a restrospective vote on the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.

It passed by 299 votes to 82, with 44 Conservative MPs going against the Government, including 1992 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady and former Cabinet ministers Esther McVey and John Redwood.

Their rebellion was a symbolic one as the legislation will be superseded by the new three-tier system.

McVey tweeted: ‘Along with 83 like minded colleagues I voted against the 10pm curfew. Labour again sat on their hands and didn’t have an opinion.’

Using a proxy vote, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among 23 of is party’s MPs to vote against the statutory instrument.

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas also voted against the 10pm curfew, tweeting: ‘It’s damaging businesses & SAGE has said it has ‘marginal impact’ on spread of virus.

‘Frustrating that no amendments allowed – other measures need strengthening in line with SAGE & @IndependentSage advice, together with far more financial support.’

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