politics

Tory MPs and Mayors furious as almost 25 million people forced into tier 3


Boris Johnson has faced serious backlash from Tory MPs and local politicians after plunging just under half of England’s population into the toughest level of restrictions.

Almost all parts of England will face tough coronavirus curbs with a ban on households mixing indoors and restrictions on hospitality after December 2.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been placed in the lowest Tier 1 set of restrictions, with people in all other parts of England set to face more serious limits to their freedom.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, but London will be in Tier 2.

Liverpool, which had been in Tier 3 before the lockdown, will move to Tier 2 in recognition of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.



The rules mean most Brits still face tough restrictions on their daily lives

But the news has been met with furious backlash from some politicians – some lockdown sceptics, others who raise questions about the level of support available to them.

Mr Johnson has faced serious backlash from his own party and must carefully balance their anger or be dependent on Labour votes to deliver his plans.

Conservative MP Sir Robert Syms demanded that local authorities be allowed to appeal the decision.

He told the Commons: “If we’re going to have regular reviews, ie weekly, that’s great and that’s fine but if we’re not, if we’re stuck in that tier for two or three weeks, I wonder whether the Secretary of State would consider some kind of appeals process?”

Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tobias Ellwood also said he would not support the bid to introduce the measures after Bournemouth was put in Tier 2.

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He said: “With only 160 cases per 100k I’m puzzled to see us placed in this tier which will cause further hardship for our hospitality industry.

“I will NOT be supporting the Gov’s motion to introduce this next week.”

Hancock said the initial decisions on tiers will be reviewed in a fortnight after they come into force – December 16 – and then regularly after that, adding: “By which he can reasonably take weekly.”

Tory MP for Hazel Grove William Wragg said he could not support the plans.

He tweeted: “Stockport’s Covid rates continue to fall sharply and will no doubt be lower still next week.

“We should be considered for tiering on a Local Authority basis. As we have not been, I cannot support these proposals.”

Serial Tory Rebel Steve Baker demanded ministers publish their analysis to justify the decisions.

He said: “The authoritarianism at work today is truly appalling. But is it necessary and proportionate to the threat from this disease?”

The Government must publish its analysis”

Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street tweeted: “Tier 3 for the WM is very disappointing, but we must now focus on getting out ASAP.

“The trajectory is good, and our stay should be short-lived if people stick to the rules.

“However more support is needed whilst in T3, particularly for the hospitality and live events sectors.”



Boris Johnson made the final call on tiers

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the lack of business support available to Tier 3 areas.

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He said: “Greater Manchester’s infection rate is reducing faster than any other part of the country but we have to accept that it is still significantly higher than the England average.

“That said, if the current rate of improvement continues, we will be asking the Government to move our city-region into Tier 2 in two weeks’ time.

“What we believe is completely wrong is the Government’s decision to provide no additional business support to areas in Tier 3 than those in Tiers 1 and 2.

“The new Tier 3 will hit the hospitality sector extremely hard. While there are grants for businesses forced to close, there is no extra support for business which supply them like security, catering and cleaning.

“This will cause real hardship for people whose jobs will be affected and risk the loss of many businesses.”

Later it emerged that areas in Tier 3 can apply to Test and Trace and Armed Forces for help to run a six-week mass testing programme.

A spokesman said the NHS and Armed Forces “stand ready to help” and details will be published next week.

Asked if mass testing was “guaranteed” for any Tier 3 area, No10 said: “It will be available to all local authorities to apply and NHS Test and Trace and the Armed Forces stand ready to support.”

A No10 spokesman would not be drawn on whether troops’ Christmas leave will have to be cancelled.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the plans the controversial plans.

He told the Commons “these are not easy decisions, but they have been made according to the best clinical advice”.

He told MPs: “Thanks to the shared sacrifice of everyone in recent weeks, in following the national restrictions, we have been able to start to bring the virus back under control and slow its growth, easing some of the pressure on the NHS.

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“We will do this by returning to a regional tiered approach, saving the toughest measures for the parts of the country where prevalence remains too high.”

The chaotic handling of the announcement saw an online postcode checker allowing people to check which tier their area would be in launch before the official details were released. However it soon crashed.

In Tier 1, the rule of six applies indoors and outdoors, people are urged to work from home if they can and pubs are limited to table service.

The majority of England will be in Tier 2, where the restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors and pubs, and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

Tier 3 measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks.

Bars and restaurants will be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people will be advised to avoid travelling outside their area.

The Confederation of British Industry said some businesses would be left “hanging by a thread” as a result of the restrictions.

The CBI’s UK policy director Matthew Fell said: “For many businesses in England, going into toughened tiers while waiting for a vaccine will feel like suspended animation.

“Some parts of the economy, such as retail, can begin to re-open and look towards a recovery. It gives our high streets a chance to rescue some of the vital festive trading period.

“But for other businesses, the ongoing restrictions in Tiers 2 and 3 will leave their survival hanging by a thread. Hospitality will remain frozen.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the Tier 2 rating for the capital but added: “There must be no complacency – we know how  quickly this virus can spread.”





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