The Daily Telegraph

Cur­few un­der threat as Tory re­volt grows

- By Christo­pher Hope

BORIS JOHN­SON’S 10pm coro­n­avirus cur­few in pubs, restau­rants and bars could be thrown out af­ter it emerged that dozens of Con­ser­va­tive MPS were pre­pared to vote against the mea­sure.

The rebel MPS, who are due to meet to­day to plot their next steps, have been em­bold­ened by com­ments from Rishi Su­nak, the Chan­cel­lor, ques­tion­ing the wis­dom of the mea­sure.

Con­ser­va­tive back­benchers have also been en­cour­aged by Labour’s re­fusal to say if it will sup­port the cur­few un­til it has seen the sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that un­der­lies it. A de­ci­sion by Labour is not ex­pected un­til to­mor­row. There were rumours last night that Gov­ern­ment whips might even pull to­mor­row’s cur­few vote to al­low more time to work on bring­ing the rebels to heel.

That came af­ter Matt Han­cock said a fi­asco that al­lowed al­most 16,000 coro­n­avirus cases to be­come lost in track­ing sys­tems “should never have hap­pened”. The Health Sec­re­tary stopped short of an apol­ogy as he blamed blun­ders – which oc­curred when spread­sheets were un­able to cope with high num­bers of cases – on aged com­puter sys­tems. As many as 48,000 con­tacts may not have been traced, with Labour warn­ing that thou­sands were “bliss­fully un­aware” they had been ex­posed to Covid.

Min­is­ters have to ask MPS to ap­prove lock­down mea­sures in sim­ple un­a­mend­able yes/no votes in the Com­mons within weeks of them com­ing into force.

Two votes on lock­down re­stric­tions in Eng­land are ex­pected in the next 48

hours: one tonight on the rule of six that lim­its gath­er­ings, which came into force on Sept 14, and a sec­ond to­mor­row night on the 10pm cur­few, which has ap­plied na­tion­ally since Sept 24.

While only a hand­ful of Tory MPS are likely to rebel on the rule of six, dozens more are ex­pected to try to vote down the cur­few.

Rebel Con­ser­va­tives – em­bold­ened af­ter last week forc­ing the Gov­ern­ment to give MPS a veto on fu­ture mea­sures – said yes­ter­day that they could muster the nec­es­sary 43 Tory MPS to vote with Labour to over­turn the Gov­ern­ment’s 85-work­ing ma­jor­ity.

One Tory MP said: “My sense is that a ma­te­rial num­ber of MPS might vote against the 10pm.” An­other rebel said: “If it tran­spires that Labour is go­ing to op­pose it then I would think there would be enough of us who would be in­clined to vote against it.”

Steve Baker, the for­mer Brexit min­is­ter who last week acted as an un­of­fi­cial whip for Tory rebels, said: “There is a grow­ing con­sen­sus that nei­ther the 10pm cur­few nor in­clud­ing chil­dren in the rule of six are well ev­i­denced. I ex­pect quite a few Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment to take is­sue on those two points.”

Sir Graham Brady, who is ex­pected to rebel, told the BBC that pa­tience was start­ing to “wear thin” with the Gov­ern­ment’s lo­cal lock­down re­stric­tions.

Yes­ter­day Mr Su­nak said of the 10pm cur­few: “Ev­ery­one is very frus­trated and ex­hausted and tired about all of this.”

Asked if Mr John­son agreed, the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial spokesman said: “He does un­der­stand the frus­tra­tions of the pub­lic.”

Last night Jonathan Ash­worth, Labour’s health sec­re­tary, re­fused to say whether Labour would sup­port the 10pm cur­few. He said: “The Gov­ern­ment needs to pro­duce pub­lic health ev­i­dence for this mea­sure.”

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