Dozens of Tory MPs set to vote against Boris Johnson over Covid passes for England

  • Booster campaign ramps up as Commons prepares to vote on Plan B restrictions, ITV News Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

Boris Johnson will face the biggest rebellion of his time as Prime Minister, with dozens of Tory MPs set to vote against new Covid restrictions.

More than 70 backbenchers are threatening to oppose the government's Plan B for England, which has been brought in amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

It is reported that up to 10 ministerial aides could resign to vote against the controls.

The measures – including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues – are expected to pass the Commons on Tuesday with the support of Labour, who back tighter controls.

The proposed measures include Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues. Credit: PA

However the scale of the threatened revolt underlines how difficult Mr Johnson’s position has become following a series of largely self-inflicted wounds suffered by the Government in recent weeks.

It could become even more precarious if the Conservatives are defeated in the North Shropshire by-election on Thursday, where the Liberal Democrats are hoping to overturn a Tory majority of almost 23,000 from the last general election.

The Prime Minister faced a wave of public anger after reports that a series of parties were held in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year at a time when such gatherings were largely banned.

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It was revealed on Monday evening that Downing Street staff were warned not to "destroy any relevant information" regarding the alleged Christmas parties.

In an email seen by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand, staff were warned any evidence of a criminal offence will be passed to the police, which could pause the internal investigation at that stage.

The country’s top civil servant, the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, is currently carrying out an investigation into whether the rules were broken – something Mr Johnson has repeatedly denied.

Within the Conservative Party, it has only served to compound the deep frustration among a large section of backbenchers at the return of new Covid controls.

Many particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties.

There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices.

Mr Johnson has insisted the measures represent a “balanced and proportionate” response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

In the Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency estimated there were 200,000 infections a day, with the new strain accounting for 20% of cases in England, and set to become dominant in London.

Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab. Credit: PA

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said there were 250 people across the UK in hospital with the Omicron variant the last time he checked official statistics.

There were 54,661 positive coronavirus cases registered on Monday in the latest 24-hour reporting period.

"The problem is the rate at which it is transmitting and if that continues we will see those numbers increase very dramatically," Mr Raab told Sky News.

But the justice secretary massively reduced this number when he later told BBC Breakfast that there were an estimated nine people in hospital with the new variant.

This was one less than the figure Sajid Javid gave on Monday - the health secretary said 10 people were in hospital in England after getting infected with the Omicron variant.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

The health service in England declared a “Level 4 National Incident”, which means the NHS centrally will now lead the response to the virus rather than local trusts setting their own course.

It will enable vaccine clinics to operate around the clock while hospital trusts will be able to discharge some patients to hotels.

Some scientists have warned that further measures will be required in the coming weeks if the service is not to be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of hospital admissions.

Lengthy queues have already been building outside vaccination centres on Tuesday morning, as people wait for walk-in boosters, with the army drafted in to help with the rollout in the north-west.

However the anticipated Tory revolt – expected to exceed the previous record of 55 under Mr Johnson’s leadership – could badly damage his political authority if more action is needed.

For now, the Prime Minister is hoping a ramped up booster jab campaign – significantly increasing the protection the vaccines provide against Omicron – will be enough to enable the NHS to get through the winter.

He has issued an appeal for “tens of thousands” of volunteer stewards and vaccinators to step forward to help deliver the Government’s “national mission” to get the offer of a top-up jab to every eligible adult in England by the end of the month.

“We need to increase our jabbing capacity to unprecedented levels,” he said.