Boris Johnson faces major revolt from MPs over tier curbs

Boris Johnson faces major revolt from MPs after dossier on tier system’s economic impact is slammed for containing no new information

  • Ministers had hoped a 48-page report would head off Tory mutiny over the plans
  • Critics say dossier does not shed enough light on likely impact of tiered system 
  • Sources conceded dozens of Tory MPs are likely to rebel during Commons vote

A major Commons revolt is expected over Boris Johnson’s Covid tier curbs today after a Government dossier on the economic impact was branded a whitewash.

Ministers had hoped a 48-page document setting out the case for a system of tiered restrictions would head off a Tory mutiny over the plans.

But critics last night said the dossier was little more than a ‘cut and paste job’, containing no new information about the impact on the economy or other health conditions.

Boris Johnson is expected to face a major Commons revolt over his Covid tier curbs today Pictured: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photograph with a vial of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 candidate vaccine at a facility in Wrexham

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, chairman of the 70-strong anti-lockdown Covid Recovery Group of MPs, last night said the Government’s case for tough new restrictions was ‘collapsing’, adding: ‘The wheels are coming off the Government’s arguments.’

Government sources conceded that dozens of Conservative MPs are likely to rebel tonight when the Commons votes on the new system of tiered restrictions.

Sources predicted that the revolt would be larger than the 34 who rebelled on the second lockdown.

However, the measures, which are due to come into force when the latest lockdown ends tomorrow, are likely to pass after Sir Keir Starmer said Labour MPs would be asked to abstain.

Labour has previously backed all lockdown measures but Sir Keir said he was ‘deeply concerned that the Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place’.

And last night there was little sign that the dossier would quell the Tory rebellion.

Prime Minister gestures as he speaks during virtual press conference at Downing Street

Tory fury at lack of data 

The lack of information on the effect of lockdowns on the economy has left Tory Party members ‘frustrated’.

More than three-quarters polled strongly disagreed that the Government has provided sufficient health and economic information to enable people to ‘make a balanced assessment of the risks’.

Three in five strongly agreed that ministers should have focused more on support for small businesses.

The poll of 2,800 members was commissioned by grassroots group Conservative Voice.

One respondent said: ‘We want a Conservative government, not all the woke nonsense that keeps being pumped out.

‘Boris needs to listen to more scientific opinions.’

Many MPs had hoped the plan would set out the economic and health impact of the tiers plan for their local area.

But the final document was based on information already in the public domain.

The entire section on the economic impact was drawn from an analysis of the impact of the pandemic published by the Office for Budget Responsibility last week.

Mel Stride, Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury committee, said: ‘It’s frustrating that there is little here that sets out how the different tiers might impact on the specific sectors and regions across the country.

‘Those looking for additional economic analysis of the new tiered system will struggle to find it in this document.’ Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, last night confirmed he would vote against the Government’s plans.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith accused ministers of a ‘cut and paste job’, which suggested no economic analysis had been done before the allocation of tiers was made.

And Mr Harper said: ‘Even with so little time, the Government’s analysis seems to be collapsing under the glare of scrutiny.’

The Prime Minister last night appealed to MPs to back him, saying it would be wrong to ‘take our foot off the throat of the beast’ now.

Mr Johnson acknowledged ‘lots of people think they are in the wrong tier’, but said that the allocations would be reviewed regularly, with the first assessment coming on December 16.

‘The tiering system is tough, but it’s designed to be tough and to keep it under control,’ he added.

The Government analysis of the impact of the new tiers was supposed to convince MPs that the system is the best ‘balanced’ way through the crisis.

But, to the anger of many MPs it concluded it was ‘not possible’ to provide an accurate assessment of the impact of the tiers on either health or the economy.

The document warned that hospitals would ‘rapidly become overwhelmed’ if the virus was allowed to run out of control after the lockdown.

It added: ‘The Government’s view is that the severe loss of life and other health impacts of allowing the NHS to be overwhelmed would be intolerable for our society.’

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