Fresh calls for Norfolk to move to tier one ahead of key Commons vote
- Credit: PA
Prime minister Boris Johnson is braced for a damaging Tory rebellion as MPs vote on a new toughened system of tiered coronavirus controls for England – with Labour claiming it would abstain.
Although the government is expected to win today’s Commons vote on the new rules, scores of Conservative MPs are deeply unhappy at the extent of the restrictions which is likely to throw Tory divisions into sharp relief.
Two Norfolk MPs and the county council leader also called for the county to be placed in the lowest tier of Covid-19 restrictions, ahead of the end of the country’s second lockdown, saying the move would be "only sensible".
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, which still numbers among the lowest infection rates in the entire country, has called for the county to return to the lowest tier of restrictions.
And Mr Baker, who was elected to the constituency in the December general election, said: “Norfolk remains substantially below the national average of infections and North Norfolk remains with some of the lowest infections in the country. Although we must be mindful of some increases in Norfolk, we must keep following the guidance and in my view it is only sensible that we [are placed] into the lowest tier.”
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His view was echoed by North West Norfolk MP James Wild.
He said: “I originally supported the tier system as an alternative to national restrictions, unfortunately we saw rates rise across the country which meant we had to going into a four-week national lockdown.
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“My hope is that we [are placed] on a lower tier.
“We need to get as close to normality as we can, as soon as possible, and going back into a lower tier will help. Although there is financial support, this pre-Christmas peak is a crucial time of year for businesses to earn revenue.”
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, also said that he saw “no real reason” why Norfolk should not be placed in the same tier it left when the lockdown began at the start of November.
Ahead of the vote, many backbenchers are being described as “furious” that their constituencies face stricter controls than before the latest lockdown, which ends tomorrow.
At a No 10 news conference on Monday, November 30, 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 Wednesday, December 16.
But scientists advising the government 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.
Sir Keir Starmer, who has previously backed government measures, said while his party had "serious misgivings" it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still posed a "serious risk".
Michael Gove said the new toughened system of tiered coronavirus controls for England are necessary, despite the prime minister facing a Tory rebellion.
The cabinet office minister told BBC Breakfast: "There are some, and I sympathise with them, who say that the current tiering system is too strict, too rigorous.
"I don't think so, I think that it's necessary to keep the infection rate down, to reduce it wherever possible, precisely so people can be together at Christmas.
"It's a balance and it's not an easy one, but while these restrictions on our freedoms are painful, they go against the grain for me, they're there to try and make sure that we don't have our NHS overwhelmed."
The result of the vote is expected at about 7pm.