Robert Buckland today blamed the new coronavirus lockdown on people failing to self-isolate when they have been told to as Tory MPs signalled they will not back national restrictions again.
The Justice Secretary said a refusal to stick to quarantine rules after testing positive or coming into close contact with someone who has was ‘one of the reasons’ why the Government has had to impose another nationwide shutdown.
He said persuading some people to comply with stay-at-home instructions had been ‘difficult’.
His intervention came as Boris Johnson was ‘put on notice’ by furious Conservative backbenchers who warned the Prime Minister he will face a much tougher battle and a revolt of 80 Tory MPs in the future if he tries to impose another lockdown.
A four-week England-wide shutdown started today and it is due to end on December 2 but the Government has failed to give a firm guarantee it will not try to extend the measures.
Mr Johnson’s lockdown sailed through the House of Commons yesterday as it was backed by 516 votes to 38, with some 34 Tory MPs rebelling to oppose the measures.
But Tory MPs who reluctantly backed the plan have suggested they are unlikely to vote for similar rules in the future should the Government propose a third national crackdown or seek an extension.
MPs said they were putting the Government ‘on 28 days’ notice’ as they hit out at ministers for ‘overstepping the mark… by making legislation about how people live their lives in their private homes’.
One of the Tory rebels, former minister Steve Baker, said he believed the rebellion could exceed 80 MPs if the PM attempts to keep national restrictions in place.
Mr Baker reportedly told Sky News that Mr Johnson will face a ‘very unhappy Christmas’ if he does propose an extension.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland today said it would have been ‘entirely wrong’ not to act given rising infections rates as he blamed people who fail to self-isolate for the new lockdown
Boris Johnson’s new national lockdown was agreed by MPs last night by 516 to 38 but the PM has been warned he will face a larger revolt if he tries to impose a third shutdown
Mr Johnson’s lockdown means pubs, bars and restaurants have had to shut while all non-essential retail has also been told to close.
Household mixing is banned while leisure facilities like gyms are not allowed to open.
The legislation underpinning the rules will expire on December 2 which means what happens after that date will have to be voted on and agreed by MPs.
There are fears that if infection rates are still high then the PM could be forced to seek an extension to the lockdown.
Mr Buckland defended the lockdown this morning as he said the Government had no choice but to roll out national Covid-19 restrictions.
He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘I think that on the basis of the evidence that we saw on the weekend, the rising hospital admissions, the rising number of cases, then it would have been entirely wrong not to act in the way that we have.’
He described last night’s rebellion as ‘fairly limited’ as he also hit out at people for failing to self-isolate.
He said it has been ‘a huge challenge’ to get people to comply with quarantine requirements, telling BBC Breakfast: ‘That’s one of the reasons we are having to take the (lockdown) measures we are today.
‘Sadly it’s been difficult frankly regarding the compliance of some people with regard to the quarantine restrictions.’
Tory MPs who backed the current shutdown have signalled they will not be willing to vote for the draconian measures again.
Nusrat Ghani, a former minister and the Conservative MP for Wealden, said it was an ‘agonising decision’ to support the lockdown and it was hard to justify the nationwide approach in her constituency which ‘only rarely gets near the R rate of 1’.
Speaking in the House of Commons last night she said: ‘I will be reluctantly supporting the Government tonight, but with a caveat.
‘I am putting the Secretary of State and the Government on 28 days’ notice.
‘They have had many months, but over this short period, they need to put in place a public health strategy that works for the whole country—not just the north and the midlands, but me in Wealden.’
She added: ‘We are overstepping the mark as a country, as a Government and as the Conservative Party by making legislation about how people live their lives in their private homes.
‘That is not a space that we should enter easily. In my experience, when men, institutions and Governments get hold of that power, they give it up very reluctantly.’
Mr Johnson’s lockdown was easily agreed by the Commons largely thanks to the backing of 190 Labour MPs.
However, some of those opposition MPs have expressed concerns about the national approach and have suggested they will oppose any similar proposals in the future.
Mike Hill, the Labour MP for Hartlepool, tweeted: ‘On the eve of a 2nd lockdown I want to let my Constituents know that it was a difficult choice to vote for it.
‘Our R rate is going down but nationally we had to act. Come 2nd December though the gloves will be off as your MP if things havn’t changed.’