Boris Johnson has asked rebels in the Conservative party to “put differences aside” to vote for new lockdown measures in England, as his predecessor Theresa May tore into the government’s lack of transparency.
The prime minister vowed that the lockdown, which will come into force at midnight on Wednesday, will end in four weeks and that ministers would seek a “fresh mandate” on what came next.
“It is right for members on all sides of this house to have the doubts that have been expressed, to seek answers from me, and to provide scrutiny,” Johnson said.
“But while it pains me to call for such restrictions on lives, liberty, and business, I have no doubt that these restrictions represent the best and safest path for our country, our people and our economy.”
May suggested she had deep scepticism about the second lockdown and echoed the calls of many leading rebels for the government to publish new data on the costs of the new restrictions, both economic and in terms of people’s health more broadly.
The former prime minister said a rolling series of lockdowns would cause “irreparable damage” to the economy and have a “significant impact on lives”. She said the localised tier system had not been given adequate time to work.
“What sort of airline industry are we going to have coming out? What sort of hospitality sector? How many small independent shops will be left? The government must have made this analysis, they must have made this assessment. Let us see it and make our own judgments.”
Johnson did not remain in the Commons for May’s speech, causing cries of outrage from the opposition benches. But in his speech at the start of the debate, he said MPs would not find themselves trapped in an indefinite period of lockdown in England. He added it was his “express intent” to return to a tiered system of local restrictions.
“I know there are many in this house who are concerned about how long these measures might last, and that if people vote for these regulations today, they could suddenly find that they’re trapped with these national measures for months on end,” he said.
“So let me level with the house. Of course I can’t say exactly where the epidemiology will be by 2 December, but what I can say is that the national measures that I hope the house will vote on tonight are time-limited. It is not that we choose to stop them. They legally expire. So whatever we do from December 2 will require a fresh mandate and a fresh vote from this house.”
Johnson reiterated that the NHS being overwhelmed could have disastrous consequences. “It means that the precious principle of care for everyone who needs it, whoever they are, whenever they need it, that principle can be shattered for the first time in our experience,” he said.
“It means those who are sick and suffering and in need of help could be turned away because there was no room in our hospitals.
New national restrictions are due to come into effect in England on Thursday, after MPs vote on them, and remain in place at least until 2 December.
Government say the list is not exhaustive, and other permitted reasons for leaving home may be set out later. People could face fines from police for leaving their home without a legally permitted excuse.
No, not unless they are part of an “exclusive” support bubble, which allows a single-person household to meet and socialise with another household.
Parents are allowed to form a childcare bubble with another household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under.
People are allowed to meet one person from another household socially and for exercise in outdoor public spaces, which does not include private gardens.
Up to 30 people will still be allowed to attend funerals, while stone settings and ash scatterings can continue with up to 15 guests.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted except in “exceptional circumstances”. Places of worship must remain closed except for voluntary services, individual prayer and other exempt activities.
Most outbound international travel will be banned. There is no exemption for staying away from home for a holiday. This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions.
Everything except essential shops and education settings, which include nurseries, schools and universities, will close.
Entertainment venues will also have to close. Pubs, restaurants and indoor and outdoor leisure facilities will have to close their doors once more.
However, takeaway and delivery services will still be allowed, while construction and manufacturing will stay open.
Parents will still be able to access registered childcare and other childcare activities where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work. Some youth services may be able to continue, such as one-to-one youth work, but most youth clubs will need to close their doors.
Public services, such as jobcentres, courts, and civil registration offices will remain open.
There is no exemption for grassroots organised team sports. Elite sports will be allowed to continue behind closed doors as currently, including Premier League football matches.
“Doctors and nurses could be forced to make impossible choices about which patients would live and would die. Who would get oxygen and who couldn’t.”
Whips are expecting a moderate rebellion of between 20 and 30 MPs, with key Tory rebels including the former chief whip Mark Harper, the former cabinet minister Esther McVey and the chair and vice-chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady and Sir Charles Walker.
Harper told the Commons he was concerned about the modelling of the rapid rise of infections, saying it did not take into account the new tiered system. “I think therefore we’ve acted too soon, because we’re starting to see the tier system working,” he said.
Johnson said the data showed that hospitalisations were still mounting. “The curve is already unmistakable and alas incontestable,” he said.