Covid: MPs back four-week England lockdown amid backlash from Tory backbenchers

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

England will enter its second coronavirus lockdown at midnight after MPs voted to approve month long restrictions.

While Boris Johnson's proposals for a month long lockdown easily passed the Commons, he was dealt a blow by several furious Tory MPs who refused to back the motion.

He won the vote by a significant majority - 516 votes to 38 - but several senior Tories, including the chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, voted to reject the lockdown.

Some 32 Tories voted against the motion.

Other senior Tory MPs to oppose the government were former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former chief whip Mark Harper, former minister Tim Loughton and Sir Charles Walker.

Many had been furious about the financial impact of lockdown - including former Prime Minister Theresa May who abstained from the vote - and others had issue with the possibility of it being extended.

Despite the rebellion, Labour had already said it would back the motion to put England into another lockdown, meaning the prime minister was never in any danger of losing the vote.

It means England will be in lockdown - forcing the closure of most businesses and banning most social interactions - from November 5 to December 2.

The regulations to introduce a second lockdown have cleared Parliament after they were approved by the House of Lords.

Mr Johnson had been seeking to ease disquiet among Tories by insisting the restrictions will end on December 2, with many concerned they will be extended.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry conference, which was delayed after the PM cancelled his appearance on Monday, he said: "Believe me, we will end these autumn measures on December 2, when they expire."

Many MPs had been worried that the government would chose to extend England's lockdown, if it hasn't brought down coronavirus infection rates sufficiently.

Speaking at PMQs on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said exiting lockdown "depends on us all doing our bit now to make sure that we get the R (value) down".

He went on: "I've no doubt that we can, and that we'll be able to go forward from December 2 with a very, very different approach - but, of course, it will be up to the House of Commons to decide, thereafter, what to do."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he's "confident" the right measures are being implemented in England, which he said will end on December 2, but he welcomed any opposing arguments from concerned MPs.

"We always talk to MPs on all sides of the House. I think sensible governments, responsible governments do that. But I think it's right that we have as much transparency, scrutiny and debate as possible," he said.

Meanwhile, police chiefs in the North West have warned they will come down hard on anyone who believed they could “flout” the restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

In a joint open letter, the chief constables of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria said they would particularly target those organising music events or other large gatherings, and those who refuse to self-isolate.

“To the minority who feel the restrictions don’t apply to them, be prepared to face the consequences of greater levels of enforcement,” they said.

Mr Raab urged people to follow the rules and avoid trying to find loopholes in the legislation.

He said: "We're going to be enforcing these restrictions, that's why they're being brought in to law. I think rather than looking for loopholes, the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of the country I think can, will and should, row in behind these measures."

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Unlike the last national lockdown in March, schools and colleges will remain open under the new controls, which are due to run to December 2.

However pubs and restaurants will be forced to close, except for takeaways and deliveries, as will gyms, entertainment venues and non-essential shops.

People will be banned from socialising with other households indoors, and only allowed to meet one other person from another household outdoors.

There has been criticism, however, over rules which mean children’s grassroots sports will be banned outside school settings.

Some Tories have also hit out at a ban on communal worship, which has meant church services marking Remembrance Sunday have had to be cancelled.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said individual measures should be seen as part of a package Credit: House of Commons/PA

In the House of Lords, the senior peer Lord Cormack said it was “imbecilic” that veterans in their 90s would forced to stand outside in the cold and rain because they were not allowed into church.

However, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, giving evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, said the restrictions had to been seen as part of a “package of measures” to get the R rate below one.

“The danger in trying to pick apart each one, and when you get down to the ones towards a lower level where you might say, ‘Well, this doesn’t make much of an impact on its own’, is that you keep cutting things off and then you end up with a sub-optimal package,” he said.

The latest move comes amid conflicting data about the current spread of the virus, with the Covid Symptom Tracker app, run by King’s College London (KCL), suggesting a a slight drop in new infections across England, Wales and Scotland.

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the study, said it showed “a plateauing and slight fall in new cases”, with an R number of 1.0.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

However data from the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge put the R number above one in most regions, with an estimated 77,600 new infections a day across England.

It predicted that by mid-November the number of deaths each day was likely to be between 380 and 710.

The latest Government figures showed that a further 397 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 47,250, while there were a further 20,018 lab-confirmed cases of the disease.

Ministers hope that when the restrictions are lifted the Government will be able to return to a tiered series of localised restrictions for England, depending on the infection rate in a particular area.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has, however, said the lockdown will mean the hardest border between England and Wales for “several centuries at least”, with travel between the two countries banned without reasonable excuse.

The controls are set to come into force just as Wales prepares to end its two-and-a-half week “firebreak”, with schools, shops, pubs and restaurants set to reopen from Monday.