MPs will today vote on the controversial new legislation amid rising anger from Tory backbenchers at the draconian measures. The three-tier system is due to replace the national lockdown in England which will end at midnight tonight.
But large numbers of Conservative MPs are angry at the proposed new system which would see 99 percent of England placed under the highest tiers.
Just Cornwall and the Isle of Wight are due to be placed under the more lenient Tier 1.
Yesterday Environment Minister George Eustice admitted that as many as 100 Tory MPs – more than a quarter of the parliamentary Party – were unhappy at the new plan and could vote against the measures in the House of Commons vote.
Backbenchers are concerned the new measures will have a devastating impact on the local economy and many also disagree with the tier their constituency has been placed in.
Pubs and restaurants in Tier 2 can only serve alcohol with a “substantial meal”, while eateries in Tier 3 have been told they must shut completely except for takeaway service.
The Government yesterday published its impact assessment on the new tiered system in an attempt to quell the growing anger from MPs.
However, the document failed to outline the economic cost of the restrictions.
It said: “It is not possible to know with any degree of confidence what path the economy would take if restrictions in place were not sufficient to prevent exponential growth or in the absence of restrictions entirely.”
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, said he was almost certain to vote against the Government.
He said: “I am pretty certain to vote against the Government.
“My concerns about the impact on civil liberties and fundamental human rights are there regardless.”
Former Conservative Chief Whip Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group which is sceptical of further restrictions, said his group was also poised to vote against the measures but said he would “read and analyse” the impact assessment overnight before coming to a final decision.
Meanwhile, New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said he would vote against the measures regardless of whether they saved lives as “liberty is more important”.
The Government has already made a series of concessions to the rebels in the hope of bringing more MPs on side with the plans, including introducing a sunset clause that could see England freed from all coronavirus restrictions in just nine weeks time.
Despite the olive branch, last night Tory rebels appeared unmoving in their opposition to the tiered system.
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However, Boris Johnson is set to be saved from an embarrassing defeat over his coronavirus recovery plan after the Labour Party said it would abstain in the vote, neither endorsing nor condemning the tiered system.
Sir Keir Starmer yesterday dithered over whether to support the plan and confirmed he had instructed his MPs not to vote on the issue.
He said last night: “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.
“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.”
The Liberal Democrats are also set to abstain from the vote.
The Prime Minister’s plan will need the backing of just 219 MPs to pass.