Commons backs Boris Johnson’s Covid tiers despite major rebellion from Tory MPs

Prime Minister Boris Johnson opens the debate on the motion to approve regulations related to public

Prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, London - Credit: PA

England is set for a strengthened tiered system of coronavirus restrictions after MPs backed the measures, despite Boris Johnson suffering the largest Tory rebellion of this parliament.

Their support means 99% of England will enter the toughest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions, preventing them from mixing indoors with other households when the second national lockdown ends on Wednesday.

The House of Commons voted by 291 votes to 78 – a government majority of 213 – for the new restrictions on Tuesday evening.

Fifty-five Conservatives rebelled over the measures, with 52 voting against the government, a further two acting as tellers for the noes and one formally abstaining.

But the measures passed with Labour ordering its MPs to abstain after party leader Sir Keir Starmer warned the plans pose a “significant” health risk.

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A government spokesman welcomed the Commons’ backing, which the House of Lords later approved, in order to “help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control”.

But he said that ministers will “continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days”.

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Rebel leader Mark Harper, a Conservative former chief whip, urged the government to listen to the warnings from opponents to Johnson’s restrictions.

The MP, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-sceptics, said: “We very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing.

“We must find a way to break the transmission of the disease, recapture the public’s support and confidence, end this devastating cycle of repeated restrictions and start living in a sustainable way until an effective and safe vaccine is successfully rolled out across the population.”

The Tory revolt was a significant increase on the 34 who rebelled against the second lockdown during a vote last month and the 44 who defied the government on the 10pm hospitality curfew.

A further sixteen Conservative MPs had no vote recorded for them on Tuesday. While some will be abstentions, others may have had valid reasons for being unable to vote.

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May was understood to have been “paired” with an opposition MP, meaning she had been given permission not to personally vote.

But former Cabinet ministers Damian Green, David Davis and Jeremy Wright were among the Tories to vote against the government, as did Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

Fifteen Labour MPs also defied party orders and voted against the regulations, including allies of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, who also voted against the measures, is currently sitting as an independent MP after his successor refused to hand him back the party whip over his response to the damning report into anti-Semitism.

Those in Tier 2, which will cover 57% of England’s population, will only be able to serve alcohol alongside a “substantial meal” and must obey rules restricting household mixing indoors.

In Tier 3, pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services.

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