MPs debate PM's Covid tier plan ahead of crunch Commons vote

1 December 2020, 08:50 | Updated: 1 December 2020, 18:43

By Megan White

MPs have been debating the government's Covid Tiers plan ahead of a crunch Commons vote on the eve of lockdown ending.

Earlier, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove insisted the new Covid tier system in England is vital to stop the NHS being overwhelmed ahead of the vote on the measures at around 7pm.

Mr Gove said England's new tiers of Covid restrictions are necessary to stop the virus "running riot" over the winter.

He defended the toughened system on air with Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning. The rules are due to come into tomorrow, but a growing number of Tory MPs have threatened to vote against it in the Commons later.

Labour says it will abstain though meaning the Government is expected to win.

Last night, the Government accused the opposition of "playing politics" after Sir Kier Starmer told Labour MPs to abstain.

Sir Keir announced on Monday that his party would abstain in the vote on the new Tier system when it is put before MPs tomorrow, ahead of coming into force on Wednesday at the end of the national lockdown.

Responding to the Labour leader's statement, a No 10 spokesperson said Sir Keir should work with the government and accused him of offering "no leadership at all" during the coronavirus crisis.

Read more: Matt Hancock says Covid is 'back under control' but urges public to get tested

Watch: Angela Eagle: Tier 3 businesses that close should be 'properly compensated'

Ahead of the vote, the Labour leader said he remained "deeply concerned" that the Government had failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place."

He added: "Short-term Government incompetence is causing long-term damage to the British economy."

Sir Keir said in a statement: "Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public's health and that's why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions.

"We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow.

"However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.

Read more: New Welsh coronavirus restrictions: Pubs and restaurants banned from selling alcohol

Read more: Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans tells LBC why he is challenging PM's tier system

"We still don't have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months.

"It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy.

“It is imperative that the Government gets control of the virus so that our NHS can be protected and our economy recovers faster.”

But the Government accused Sir Keir of "playing politics" in the midst of the pandemic by choosing to abstain.

"This pandemic is one of the biggest challenges facing the country in decades and Labour have decided to abstain on it," a No 10 spokesman said.

"While Keir Starmer claims he offers new leadership, it's clear to all that he actually offers no leadership at all.

"Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic instead of working with the Government to find a way through this difficult time for the British people."

A growing number of Tory backbenchers are worried the new restrictions could do more harm than good - and are upset about how areas have been allocated tiers.

In a bid to stave off the revolt, Boris Johnson wrote to Conservative MPs on Saturday offering a 3 February "sunset" - or expiry date - for the tier strategy, which would give them the chance to vote on any future extension.

The prime minister has been facing growing dissent after it was announced that 99 per cent of the country would be placed into Tiers 2 and 3 when the second nationwide lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Conservative MP Greg Clark, chair of the science committee, told Swarbrick on Sunday: “I can’t support a proposal that very unfairly takes an area with such a very low comparative level of infection and puts it in a category that is the very highest in the country.”

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