Watch: MPs approve second lockdown in England
MPs have voted in favour of the planned four-week coronavirus lockdown, which begins on Thursday.
Despite a rebellion from some of his own Tory backbench MPs, support from Labour meant Boris Johnson’s plans for a four-week lockdown from 5 November until 2 December were voted through on Wednesday by 516 votes to 38.
During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) ahead of the vote, the prime minister told the Commons he hoped shops and businesses would be able to reopen again in the run-up to Christmas as he urged MPs to back the lockdown.
He said the government was not seeking to impose the new controls “lightly” but it was essential they took action now to curb the spread of the virus.
Watch: Labour leader urged PM to show ‘some basic honesty’
Johnson has come under fire for failing to set out a clear strategy for getting the country out of lockdown.
He also faced a backbench revolt by some Conservative MPs concerned about the damage new measures will cause to the economy, as well as the impact on civil liberties.
Tory MP Peter Bone said he decided to vote against the lockdown following a briefing for MPs by government scientists, comparing ministers’ arguments to Tony Blair’s infamous “dodgy dossier” on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But during PMQs, Johnson urged MPs to put aside “party political wrangling and point-scoring” and to come together to drive down the infection rate.
He stopped short of confirming that the lockdown would end on 2 December, but insisted the new regulations would automatically expire on that date and what happened afterwards would depend on what was needed to reduce the R rate of the virus.
Downing Street said it was the PM’s “firm view” that the second lockdown would end on December 2 and that the country would revert back to the regional tiered system.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I think the PM has been clear on that.
“Legally the regulations which MPs are voting on today will lapse on December 2 and a new regime will be brought into place, subject to a vote.
“You heard what the PM said to the CBI. His very firm view is that it will end on December 2.
“We have said it is our intention to return to a regionalised and localised tiered approach.”
Despite confirming Labour’s support for the government, leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the PM for a “huge failure of leadership”.
“I just want some basic honesty,” the Labour leader told the Commons.
“If the infection rate – we’ve got to look the public in the eye – is still going up on December 2, it is madness to come out of the system back to the tiered system, when we know the one thing the tiered system can’t cope with is an R rate above one.”
The vote came as the head of NHS England said the service was ready to “fire the starting gun” whenever a vaccine became available.
The head of the UK’s vaccines taskforce has said data from the vaccine trials at the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and Pfizer with BioNTech could be available this year.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said GPs will be put on standby from December should vaccine become available before Christmas.
However, he said the “expectation” was that any vaccination programme would begin in the new year – pending positive results from the vaccine clinical trials.
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