Leeds MP slams government tier system as Boris Johnson survives revolt from Conservative rebels

A Leeds MP has voted against the government's tier restriction plans - describing the "lack of decent sick pay" as a disgrace.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 6:00 am
Richard Burgon MP

MPs have backed the new system of coronavirus tiers for England as Boris Johnson survived a significant revolt from Conservative rebels to pass the restrictions.

Their backing paves the way for 99% of England to enter the toughest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions 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.

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However, Richard Burgon MP - Labour for East Leeds - announced on his social media accounts that he had voted against the plans.

He said: "I just voted against the Government's plan. It'll fail to drive the virus down properly while we await a vaccine. And the lack of decent sick pay is a disgrace.

"The gov’t should learn from countries that have effectively eliminated the virus.

"Instead it's risking a Third Wave."

With Labour ordering its MPs to abstain, the measures passed despite senior Tories having lined up to criticise the measures.

The Labour whips suggested around 56 Tory MPs voted against the Government ahead of the voting lists being revealed by the Commons.

If the revolt is of that scale, it will be the largest Commons rebellion Mr Johnson has sustained since December’s general election.

A Government spokesman welcomed the backing from the Commons 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”.

The Prime Minister announced a one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to remain closed under the restrictions in an attempt to reduce the scale of the revolt, though the move was branded “derisory” by the trade.

Mr Johnson acknowledged concerns of a perceived “injustice” in the allocation of tiers but reassured MPs that the Government would look at a more focused approach in the future.

The House of Lords was expected to approve the plans later on Tuesday.

Most pubs in the country will face hampered trade by the measures.

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.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: “A one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to close does not even count as a token gesture.”

The tiers will be reviewed every fortnight and Mr Johnson promised MPs a fresh vote on whether to keep the system before February 2.

Tory backbenchers were outraged that the Government’s impact assessments on the three-tiered system did not include a detailed breakdown of the economic effects of the measures.

Their anger was further compounded by a report in the Times which revealed the existence of a Whitehall dashboard detailing Covid-19’s impact on almost 40 sectors of the economy.

A red rating, which indicates significant job cuts and revenue losses, was said to be against dozens of them, including aerospace, the automotive industry, retail, hospitality, tourism, arts and sport.

The anger on the Tory benches was set out by prominent backbenchers.

Sir Graham Brady, the influential chairman of the 1922 Committee and a Tory MP in Tier 3 Greater Manchester, said: “If Government is to take away fundamental liberties of the people whom we represent, they must demonstrate beyond question that they’re acting in a way that is both proportionate and absolutely necessary.

“Today, I believe the Government has failed to make that compelling case.”

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green, an MP in Tier 3 Kent, said the plans lacked public support, adding: “I’ve had the most angry emails over a weekend since the Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister’s strategy posed a “significant” health risk and it was “highly unlikely” to see restrictions eased in parts of the country before Christmas.

He accused Mr Johnson of “overpromising and under-delivering” by pursuing an approach of short-term decisions that then “bump into the harsh reality of the virus”.