Boris Johnson is facing a huge Tory mutiny over his new tiers today as it emerged the government has another ‘secret’ assessment of the economic hit – alongside the ‘cut and paste’ version published last night.
The PM has failed to quell rising fury on his own benches about the draconian restrictions, which will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from tomorrow.
As many as 100 have been considering going against the government in a crunch vote this evening, and were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the measures, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the ‘wheels were coming off’ the policy.
It is understood the government has another dossier that includes more ‘granular’ information on 40 areas of the economy, although sources dismissed the idea it is ‘secret’, saying it only contains material already ‘publicly available’.
Mr Johnson has been left exposed after Sir Keir Starmer announced that Labour will abstain on the vote tonight, saying he was concerned the proposals are not tough enough and do not include sufficient compensation for businesses.
The move means that the scale of the rebellion will not be masked by Opposition support – but the government is still guaranteed victory as not enough will switch sides to overturn Mr Johnson’s huge majority. Around 30 MPs defied the whip in the last lockdown vote, and that number could double this time.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove was sent out on the airwaves to defend the government’s position, warning that the renewed lockdown in Wales, just weeks after their ‘firebreak’ curbs, showed ‘what happens when you pull the restraints back too far’.
He said he was ‘confident as confident can be’ that there will not need to be a third national lockdown in England.
But Mr Gove risked fuelling the backlash by jibing that people would not be out ‘Christmas shopping’ if the NHS was overwhelmed because the government did not take strong action.
Mr Gove, regarded as one of the leading ‘Doves’ in Cabinet, also acknowledged he had wanted to plunge London straight into Tier 3. He was overruled by Mr Johnson amid fears 500,000 jobs could be lost.
‘It is always easier to move an area from a tougher tier to a lower tier,’ he told Sky News.
In other coronavirus news:
- Britain recorded just 12,330 coronavirus infections in the lowest Monday toll since September;
- Welsh pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country is plunged into a new lockdown just weeks after the last one ended;
- Some High Street shops will open 24 hours a day in December in a desperate bid to offset the £900million a day economic hit of the new tier restrictions;
- The Prime Minister announced a £20million boost for medicine manufacturing in the UK in a bid to strengthen the country’s response to future pandemics;
- Professor Peter Openshaw, of Imperial College, a member of an official virus advisory group, said a Covid vaccine could be available ‘as early as next week’;
- Moderna said it would today submit its Covid vaccine for emergency approval in the US and Europe, after the final analysis of its last-stage trial showed it was 94.1 per cent effective;
- Under new guidelines, Santa’s grottos can open but with Father Christmas in a mask and children banned from sitting on his knee.
Boris Johnson went out for a run with his personal trainer today as he braces for the Commons showdown over his new coronavirus tiers
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove (left) was sent out on the airwaves to defend the government’s position, warning that the renewed lockdown in Wales, just weeks after their ‘firebreak’ curbs, showed ‘what happens when you pulkl the restraints back too far’. Sir Keir Starmer (right) has decided to abstain in the crunch vote today
Whips are trying to talk round 100 Conservatives on the verge of joining the mutiny, with fury that just 1 per cent of England is being been in the lowest level of restrictions, even though many areas in Tier 3 have seen few or no infections
Sir Keir Starmer has decided to break from Boris Johnson’ in today’s vote on new coronavirus restrictions – in a move that could further damage the PM’s authority and leave him at the mercy of his backbench.
No10 is expected to win today’s Commons vote on the three-tier lockdown curbs due to come into force tomorrow when the blanket shutdown ends – but its majority will be slashed by Labour’s abstention.
Sir Keir, who has backed government measures throughout the pandemic, said it would not be in the national interest to vote the restrictions down when coronavirus still posed a ‘serious risk’ to the public.
But his party’s decision not to actively support the Government has left Mr Johnson exposed to his own MPs, with little sign last night that No10’s dossier on the social and economic consequences of the tier system had quelled a rebellion which could see up to 100 Conservatives vote against the measures.
Scores of Tories have furiously branded Downing Street’s 48-page document a whitewash and a ‘cut and paste’ job after it insisted that it could not measure how the three-tier system will effect the economies of local areas.
The final dossier was based on information in the public domain, with the section on the economic impact drawn from an analysis of the impact of the pandemic published by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) last week.
Senior Tories blasted the ‘rushed’ document, which contained typographical errors – with one claiming that the PM had chosen not to publish an economic forecast ‘because it would have come up with the wrong answer’.
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.’
Wales BANS pubs from selling alcohol and introduces 6pm CURFEW as it heads for ANOTHER lockdown just weeks after ‘firebreak’
First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined a raft of measures for the hospitality sector yesterday following a sharp uptick in coronavirus infections, especially among the under-25s.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be allowed to remain open until 6pm from Friday, and operate as takeaways afterwards. And they will not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks under a scheme like that in place in Scotland for weeks.
Under the new programme, cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will also close, but non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres can stay open.
The move follows the previous ‘firebreak’ lockdown between October 23 and November 9. When that ended, people were allowed to meet indoors in groups of up to four people in places like pubs and restaurants, with no alcohol sales before 6pm and a 10.20pm curfew.
Up to 15 people were also allowed to take part in ‘an organised indoors activity’ like an exercise class, and non-essential retain reopened.
But coronavirus cases have risen from 160 per 100,000 to 210 per 100,000 in the past 10 days, an increase of 31 per cent.
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.
At a No 10 news conference yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped some areas could be moved into lower tiers when the restrictions come up for their first fortnightly review on December 16. But government scientists have made clear they see little scope for any widespread easing before Christmas.
It could mean most areas of England will go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.
Explaining his decision to order Labour to abstain in today’s Commons vote, Sir Keir said: ‘Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public’s health and that’s why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions. We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow.
‘However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.
‘We still don’t have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months.
‘It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy. It is imperative that the Government gets control of the virus so that our NHS can be protected and our economy recovers faster.’
In response, the Government accused Sir Keir of ‘playing politics’ in the midst of the pandemic. ‘This pandemic is one of the biggest challenges facing the country in decades and Labour have decided to abstain on it,’ a No10 spokesman said.
‘While Keir Starmer claims he offers new leadership, it’s clear to all that he actually offers no leadership at all.
‘Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic instead of working with the Government to find a way through this difficult time for the British people.’
Whips are trying to talk round 100 Conservatives on the verge of joining the mutiny, with fury that just 1 per cent of England is being put in the lowest level of restrictions from Wednesday, with many areas in Tier 3 even though they have seen few or no infections. Concessions such as a February renewal date and more money for pubs and restaurants have already been offered.
But calls for a rethink have been reinforced by more evidence that the UK’s outbreak is shrinking fast, with just 12,330 Covid-19 infections recorded in the lowest Monday toll since September.
On a visit to pharmaceutical firm Wockhardt at their facility in North Wales, Mr Johnson said England’s lockdown had got the disease under control with the R number – a measure of how quickly the virus is spreading – below 1.
He said: ‘We can’t afford to take our foot off the throat of the beast, to take our foot off the gas, we can’t afford to let it out of control again.
‘The tiering system is tough, but it’s designed to be tough and to keep it under control. I know that lots of people think that they are in the wrong tier and I understand people’s frustration.
‘I particularly understand the frustration of the hospitality sector that has borne so much and been through so much in the last few months, and we will do everything we can, as we have been doing, to protect and to encourage that sector throughout the weeks and months ahead.’
But Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the Treasury Committee, criticised the documents tonight.
‘On a number of occasions, I’ve requested from the Chancellor and Treasury officials that they publish an analysis of the economic impacts of the three tiers,’ he said.
‘With little over 24 hours until MPs vote on the new tiered system, this rehashed document offers very little further in economic terms other than that which the OBR published last week. 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.
Sturgeon says she won’t have ‘indoor Christmas’ with family this year
Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she will not be celebrating Christmas indoors with family this year.
Despite signing off on a UK-wide loosening for the festive season, the Scottish First Minister said she did not want to put her family ‘at risk’.
‘Normally, Christmas, my husband and I would have both our families here in our own home. We will not be doing that this year,’ she said.
‘I’ve not seen my parents since July and I would dearly love to see them today and at Christmas, but I don’t want to put them at risk when a vaccine is so close.
‘We might go and have a family walk somewhere, but the idea … of an indoors Christmas dinner is something we will not do this year.’
‘Those looking for additional economic analysis of the new tiered system will struggle to find it in this document.’
Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing that he hoped MPs from ‘all parties’ will back the proposals. The Health Secretary also said it is possible that some parts of the country could be downgraded to a lower tier at the first review of the measures on December 16.
He said: ‘Of course you’ve got to take into account that Christmas is coming up, but, nevertheless, with the case rates coming down as they are – coming down by almost third in the last week – then we will be absolutely looking at each area and seeing what is the right tier for that area.’
It comes as MailOnline analysis of official data showed only four NHS trusts in England are busier now than they were this time last year – despite warnings the health service would be crippled by coronavirus without the revamped three-tier lockdown system.
Michael Gove sparked fury over the weekend when he claimed that every hospital in England would be ‘physically overwhelmed’ by Covid-19 without the Government’s new restrictions, as he tried to persuade MPs and the public to support the brutal curbs.
But NHS England figures paint an entirely different picture, with thousands more hospital beds spare this year than last winter.
On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.
For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 – which is the most comparable data available for last winter – when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full.
Britain today recorded just 12,330 Covid-19 infections in the lowest Monday toll since September, as Boris Johnson faces a growing rebellion over No10 ‘s draconian new tier system amid mounting evidence that the second wave is retreating
On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 — which is the most comparable data available for last winter — when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full
Just four trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), University College London Hospitals FT, Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT — are busier now than they were a year ago
Of the trusts that are the busiest this year, only Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh is seeing more patients in total than last winter
It’s true that nearly a third of English hospitals are seeing more Covid patients now than at the peak of the crisis in April. But on the whole, there are still 4,000 fewer people with the disease in English hospitals compared to mid-April
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.’
Just four trusts – Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), University College London Hospitals FT, Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT – are busier now than they were a year ago.
In Cambridge, 769 of 823 beds were full (93.4 per cent) on average in the week ending November 22, compared to 883 out of 956 (92.5 per cent) last winter.
Calderdale and Huddersfield was at 93.3 per cent capacity last week, with 499 out of 535 beds filled, slightly higher than the 92 per cent last December, when 596 of 648 beds were in use.
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is almost at full capacity, with 98.7 per cent of its 335 beds occupied. But that figure is still only marginally higher than the 96 per cent from last year.
While University College London was 89.2 per cent full last December compared to 93 per cent last week.
Dr Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a ‘brainwashing PR campaign’ with ‘data that doesn’t stack up’.
He told MailOnline: ‘We’ve gone back to how it started in March, with [the Government] claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you’ve shown me proves that it doesn’t need protecting. It’s dealing with Covid very well indeed.
‘What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they’ve still got some spare beds for Covid if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn’t stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.’