Covid Tiers: MPs approve new rules despite Tory rebellion

1 December 2020, 19:14 | Updated: 1 December 2020, 22:44

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons. Picture: PA

By Megan White

MPs have voted in favour of the new Covid-19 lockdown restriction Tiers despite a significant Tory rebellion.

The House of Commons voted by 291 votes to 78 - a Government majority of 213 - for the new restrictions on Tuesday evening, that will come into effect first thing on Wednesday.

99 per cent of the country will be placed into Tiers 2 and 3 when the second nationwide lockdown ends, with just Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly entering Tier 1.

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With Labour ordering its MPs to abstain, the measures passed despite senior Conservative lining up to criticise the measures.

More than 50 Conservative MPs voted against the Government along with 15 Labour MPs, eight for the DUP and two independents - including Jeremy Corbyn - while 290 voted with it.

In an attempt to lessen the scale of the rebellion, the Prime Minister 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.

Peers later approved the plans later in the House of Lords, with a so-called regret motion put down by a Conservative former minister being defeated by the government by 246 to 64 votes, majority 182.

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A Government spokesman welcomed MPs voting to approve the new tiered system to replace the national lockdown in England 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."

Earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson said there remains a "compelling necessity" for regional tiers.

He told MPs: "With the spread of the epidemic varying across the country there remains a compelling case for regional tiers in England and indeed a compelling necessity for regional tiers."

The PM added: "This is not another lockdown. Nor is this the renewal of existing measures in England.

"The tiers that I'm proposing would mean that from tomorrow everyone in England, including those in Tier 3, will be free to leave their homes for any reason.

"And when they do they will find the shops open for Christmas, the hairdressers open, the nail bars open, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools open."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said another nationwide lockdown across England "would be the only alternative" to the Government's proposed tiers.

Closing the debate for the Government, with the Prime Minister sat next to him on the frontbench, Mr Hancock told the Commons: "Voting against these restrictions tonight is, in fact, a vote to allow the entire system to lapse tomorrow and I know every member of this House wants to control the virus and no-one wants to see the NHS overwhelmed.

"So support the motion to protect the NHS, support the motion to back the nurses that we all clapped in the spring, support the motion to back the doctors working on our wards every night, support the motion to back the teachers who are working so hard to keep our schools open, and back the care workers looking after the most vulnerable.

"And support this motion to back the businesses that don't want another national lockdown, because that would be the only alternative.

"By voting for this motion you are supporting all these people and the public who want to see us act together."

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