Boris bats off Tory rebels as MPs vote to put England into tougher tier syste

Ministers have voted in favour of the Government’s tougher three-tier system after Boris Johnson faced the biggest rebellion of his premiership.

It means 99% of England – more than 55 million people – will be plunged under the two toughest tiers in a matter of hours.

Following a heated debate in the Commons, MPs voted to approve the latest Covid-19 regulations by 291 votes to 78 – majority 213. A total of 55 Tories rebelled over the measures.

The prime minister had desperately attempted to convince rebel Tory MPs to back the plans, which will come into effect shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

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Mr Johnson reportedly stood by the lobby pleading with MPs not to vote against the Government after scores of his ministers criticised the harsher three-tier system.

Many argued for transparency over data to support the localised restrictions, while others insisted greater financial support must be offered to the nation’s most hard-hit industries to see them through the next round of measures.

As part of the prime minister’s efforts to win over his backbenchers, he announced a £1,000 one-off payment would be made to ‘wet’ pubs in tiers two and three that cannot offer food as a ‘substantial meal’.

Mr Johnson acknowledged the hospitality sector had borne a ‘disproportionate’ burden of restrictions as he announced the payout – but pub landlords have branded the grant as ‘insulting’.

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.

Conservative former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said several sectors are being restricted on the ‘most arbitrary of judgments’.

He said: ‘These decisions are being taken really on the back of a fag packet but are destroying whole swathes of the hospitality industry.

‘As a Conservative, it appals me that we’re being so cavalier about jobs and wealth creation.’

Former Conservative Cabinet minister Jeremy Wright said he would vote against the Government ‘for the first time in 10 years’.

He told the Commons: ‘And not because I oppose the move away from nationwide restrictions and towards a localised tiered structure, I do support that, but the logic of that approach is that you make the restrictions as local as you can consistent with accurate and reliable virus data.

‘We have that data at borough and district level, so why do we not consistently impose our restrictions at that level?’

Conservative Steve Baker was one of several Conservative MPs who vowed to vote against the restrictions in the Commons ‘to send a message to the Government’.

He added: ‘People like me have not just been looking for economic analysis, we’ve been looking for serious analysis of these harms and benefits from the Government’s policies in the context of coronavirus.’

A Government spokesman welcomed the vote, adding: ‘This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control.

‘We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.’

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