MPs back new Covid rules but PM suffers Tory revoltNovember 30, 2021
MPs back Boris Johnson’s Omicron Covid rules on face masks and travel self-isolation but dozens of anti-lockdown Tories rebel as they accuse the PM of putting the nation on a path ‘towards hell’
- MPs voted this afternoon on the Government’s latest coronavirus restrictions
- New rules on face masks and travel self-isolation have already been rolled out
- The measures were overwhelmingly approved by MPs but some Tories rebelled
- Anti-lockdown MPs accused PM of putting the nation on the path ‘towards hell’
MPs have overwhelmingly backed Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant – but dozens of Tories rebelled to oppose the curbs.
New rules on face masks and travel self-isolation came into effect in England from 4am this morning and MPs voted retrospectively this afternoon to approve the moves.
But Mr Johnson suffered a significant Conservative revolt as anti-lockdown MPs accused the PM of putting the nation on a path ‘towards hell’.
MPs backed making the wearing of face masks in shops and on public transport compulsory in England by 434 votes to 23, as 19 Tories voted against.
MPs later approved requiring returning travellers to take a PCR test on or before day two after their arrival and to require all close contacts of Omicron cases to isolate for 10 days by 431 votes to 36, as 32 Conservatives rebelled.
MPs have overwhelmingly backed Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant – but dozens of Tories rebelled to oppose the curbs
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told the House of Commons this afternoon before the votes took place that the Government was putting the nation on a path ‘towards hell’
Mr Johnson has insisted the new rules are needed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant to buy scientists some time to examine the strain and to determine if vaccines are effective against it.
But the return of curbs has prompted anger among some Conservative MPs who described them as ‘oppressive, authoritarian and dictatorial’.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told the House of Commons this afternoon before the votes took place: ‘This is a fundamental choice, I would say, between heading towards heaven and heading towards hell.
‘If we continue to react to these fears and uncertainties by taking the authoritarian course, without impact assessments, because they’re only temporary, you know, then we are embarked on that downward course.’
He added: ‘The public are not fools. We’re not here to govern idiots. I have faith in the British public. I have faith that they can choose for themselves to do the right thing.’
Mr Baker said the Government is imposing the ‘hell of minute management of our lives by edict’.
Fellow Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope echoed a similar sentiment, telling the Commons: ‘I cannot support these oppressive, authoritarian and dictatorial regulations.
‘They’re neither necessary nor desirable, they will have an adverse effect on lives, livelihoods and the mental health of our constituents.’
The votes took place amid mounting pressure on Mr Johnson to provide a guarantee that MPs will get a formal say on extending the rules, should the Government deem that is necessary.
The Commons is due to enter its Christmas recess from December 16, lasting until January 5.
But Tory former chief whip Mark Harper has pointed out that the three-week review of the measures is lined up to report on December 20.
He told Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday: ‘I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to allow the measures to lapse.
‘But if he is going to feel he needs to renew them or, worse, have to bring in stronger measures, can I have a commitment from the leader that the House will be recalled to debate and vote on measures ahead of them coming into force?
‘He will know over the last couple of weeks, particularly due to the way the Government handled the standards measures, there has been a diminution in the trust between backbenchers and ministers, and I think giving a clear commitment to treat Parliament seriously would help heal that rift.’
Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘I can’t give guarantees as to what will happen in three weeks, nor can I give guarantees as to what the desire of the House will be because it was only Oliver Cromwell that made us sit on Christmas Day.’
Fellow Tory MP Bob Seely also pressed Mr Rees-Mogg on the issue of the three-week review.
Mr Rees-Mogg said a recall over Christmas was ‘extraordinarily rare’ – after acknowledging it happened in 2020 – before noting: ‘I’ll always do my best to facilitate Parliament but in a way that recognises actually how Parliament wants to be facilitated.
‘I’m not convinced that all 650 members want to be back here on December 24 or 25.’
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