'More than 40 MPs' lining up against rule of six limit on gatherings, Tory MP says

11 September 2020, 09:54 | Updated: 11 September 2020, 11:28

Tory MP Steve Baker estimates over 40 MPs could oppose rule of 6

By Joe Cook

A Tory MP today said a growing number of Conservative backbenchers were lining up in opposition to the government's new law on social gatherings.

Asked by LBC's Nick Ferrari at breakfast how much dissent he was aware of over the rule of six, Tory MP for Wycombe Steve Baker said: "Well I'm afraid a lot, I have not yet rung round.

"I have had tremendous feedback this morning from another interview, from colleagues who all want to join me in protesting. I have lists of colleagues, as I so often do, and it's remarkable when you go through."

"I stopped counting when I got over the magic 40. They're not people, let’s be clear, who are saying yes I'll vote against yet, they're people I know I need to call.

"The point I’m making is when I sat down yesterday and went through and thought: ‘Who do I need to speak to? Who is likely to be on my side of the argument?’ I think overwhelmingly the Conservative backbenches will be on my side of the argument.

"I am also advised that the cabinet has a great degree of agreement with the position I'm taking."

From Monday, gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England due to concerns around the number of daily positive Covid-19 cases in the UK rising to almost 3,000.

Currently, the lawful limit on gatherings is 30 people.

MPs are said to be lining up in anger over the rule of six
MPs are said to be lining up in anger over the rule of six. Picture: PA

Mr Baker called on the government to scrap the laws around social gatherings rather than tightening them, telling Nick: “I think it is time for us to move to a voluntary system, without enforcement powers, to trust the British people to do the right thing.”

“I think clearly people do want to do the right things and in the new environment we face we should be moving forwards on a voluntary basis unless the government can prove otherwise.”

He continued: "Boris now needs, I think, to take stock, to look at the data and to really ask whether this is a legal environment consistent with life as a free people. The constant change.

"You know we're telling children go to school, but you can't go to a party afterwards.

"We're telling the public to go and eat out to help out, but not in groups of more than six. It's madness. You can go to work in any numbers but you can't go to the pub afterwards. This is just not a fit way for a free people to live."

Sir Christopher Chope today raised concerns that the Government has yet to lay the new Covid-19 regulations before Parliament.

Raising a point of order in the Commons on Friday morning, the Christchurch MP said: "I've been looking at today's Order Paper and particularly at the remaining orders and I had expected to see the statutory instrument which the Government must lay in order for the draconian new rules which it is bringing in on Monday to be lawful.

"And that doesn't seem to have been laid despite the Prime Minister making an announcement about it on Wednesday and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care having made a statement yesterday.

"And I'm very concerned about the lack of opportunity for people, the public first of all, to see the text of these new regulations and I'm also concerned about the continuing reluctance of the Government to give any opportunities to members to debate this.

"What we are talking about is the most draconian introduction of new restrictions on our liberty with criminal sanctions and we need to be made aware of what's happening and given the opportunity of debating it."

In a press conference announcing the new rule of six on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it "breaks his heart" to insist on these restrictions for families and grandparents.

But he insisted the rules are necessary as people are misunderstanding the risk they put on everyone by "taking their health into their own hands".

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the UK must take decisive action as it is currently following an extremely similar pattern to France and Spain, where cases have increased.

The UK's social gathering rules from Monday:

England: Up to six people can meet from any number of households, in all settings. This includes children. Support bubbles or households larger than six can still gather.

There will be exceptions for organised sport and worship. Weddings and funerals are limited to 30 people, if conducted in a Covid-secure way.

Scotland: Up to six people can meet from two households, in all settings. This does not include children under 12. There will be exceptions for organised sport and worship. Weddings and funerals are limited to 20 people.

Wales: Up to six people can meet indoors from one extended household, which can be made up of four houses. This does not include children under 12. Up to 30 people can meet outside from any household.

Northern Ireland: Up to six people can meet indoors from two households. Up to 15 people can meet outdoors. These limits have applied since last month. Weddings and funeral limits depend on the venue size.