Boris Johnson has told MPs they will have an opportunity to vote on England’s coronavirus restrictions in January, in an effort to stave off a growing Conservative party rebellion.
Some 70 Tory MPs have expressed their concerns to the prime minister about the new system — which will see millions of people experience tougher restrictions than before the four-week nationwide lockdown that ends on Tuesday.
A House of Commons vote will be held on the new measures on Tuesday. Concerns from a growing number of MPs could mean that Mr Johnson has to rely on votes from the opposition Labour party, which has not yet decided to support the measures.
In a letter to all MPs this weekend, Mr Johnson wrote that while “no prime minister wants to impose restrictions which cause such harm to society, the economy and people’s mental health,” there was no alternative.
“They are necessary if we are to keep the virus under control and avoid either the overwhelming of the NHS or another national lockdown which is far more damaging and restrictive than these tiers,” he wrote.
The prime minister said that the new regulations would have a sunset clause, bringing them to an end on February 3 and MPs would have opportunities to vote again on the restrictions before then. He added that regional restrictions would be reviewed on December 16.
Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson said that the imminent prospect of vaccines, the first one of which is set to be approved in the coming days, and mass testing meant Britain was turning a corner with its battle against Covid-19
“This time we know in our hearts that we are winning, and that we will inevitably win, because the armies of science are coming to our aid with all the morale-boosting, bugle-blasting excitement of Wellington’s Prussian allies coming through the woods on the afternoon of Waterloo,” he wrote
“We are so nearly out of our captivity. We can see the sunlit upland pastures ahead. But if we try to jump the fence now, we will simply tangle ourselves in the last barbed wire, with disastrous consequences for the NHS.”
Dominic Raab, foreign secretary, said that a full analysis of the cost of lockdown would be published ahead of Tuesday’s vote — something Conservative rebels have been asking for.
“People want to make sure it is a rounded judgment that’s taken into account, not just the measures we need to bear down the virus, but the corollary damage that may then be taken, particularly on jobs and livelihoods,” he told Sky News.
Mark Harper, the former chief whip and a prominent member of the Covid Support Group of MPs sceptical of the government’s approach, said MPs would require move evidence before supporting the measures.
“Presenting MPs with a ‘take it or leave it’ set of rules that will last until the end of March would be unacceptable. But the Government cannot expect support if it continues to keep us and the public in the dark without presenting the evidence that will convince us that these measures will have more benefits than costs,” he wrote in the Telegraph.