The 24 Tory MPs who voted against tough new COVID laws

Jimmy Nsubuga
·4 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: An anti-lockdown protester is arrested by police officers in Parliament Square outside the House of Commons on January 6, 2021 in London, England. The UK Parliament has been recalled today to debate and vote on the new regulations needed to reimpose the England-wide lockdown that was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday night. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Some Tory MPs voted against tough new COVID rules. (Getty)

The prime minister has suffered another backbench rebellion over his coronavirus strategy as 24 Conservative MPs voted against new regulations to increase fines.

The measures, which increased house party fines from £200 to £800, came into force last month but required retrospective approval by Parliament.

They were introduced as part of a crackdown on illegal gatherings and those flouting the legal requirement to self-isolate during the pandemic.

The new rules also give police extra powers to access Test and Trace data.

The laws were approved by 526 votes to 24, majority 502, during a vote on Wednesday.

Watch: Fines announced to lockdown partygoers

But Broxbourne MP Charles Walker was one if the rebels who voted against the changes, saying in an interview on Wednesday morning: “What the Government is doing now is bordering on the very dangerous to be perfectly honest.

"It is robbing people of hope, it is robbing people of something to look forward to, and it is very, very stupid and very, very short-sighted.

“I don’t hold the prime minister responsible for this but I do hold his secretaries of state responsible for this and he needs to rein them in very, very quickly.”

Several members for the COVID Recovery Group which comprises of lockdown-sceptic Tory backbenchers also opposed the rules, including chair Mark Harper.

He has previously called for all coronavirus restrictions to be dropped as soon as the top nine priority groups are vaccinated.

Forest of Dean MP Harper also claimed the goal posts for reopening society are being shifted as he demanded the national lockdown was completely dropped within the next few months.

Last week he reiterated a call for the government to ease lockdown restrictions from 8 March “once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and protected by that date”, after preliminary results from a study showed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine cut transmission rates by 67%.

He said these groups account for about 88% of deaths and about 55% of hospitalisations from COVID-19.

Speaking in the Commons on 2 February, Harper asked health secretary Matt Hancock: “Given the vaccine rollout is going so well, and ahead of where I suspect the secretary of state thought it would be, can I ask him to confirm that on 8 March when we start seeing schools go back that it’ll be those metrics – deaths and hospitalisations, as they fall – which will guide the reopening, not just of schools, but of the rest of the economy?”

Hancock said four metrics had been set out to consider before easing the national restrictions: deaths, hospitalisations, the state of new coronavirus variants and the vaccination rollout.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: Mark Harper MP formally launches his bid to become the new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, on June 11, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Chair of the COVID Recovery Group MP Mark Harper. (Getty)

Boris Johnson has repeatedly said 8 March is the earliest date lockdown restrictions may start to be eased, but he hasn’t said when the lockdown may be fully lifted despite facing increasing pressure from MPs due to a good roll-out of vaccines.

The PM repeated at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday he will outline plans for lifting restrictions in England on 22 February.

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Sir Patrick Vallance added it would be done with “caution” and based on the data.

He said there were still a “significant number of people in high-risk groups” who had not been vaccinated.

Sir Patrick said: “Those people remain at risk and so it’s important we go cautiously in opening up, in order to be able to measure the effects.”

He added: “The virus isn’t going to be particularly interested in dates.”

The 24 Conservative MPs who opposed the regulations were: Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Steve Baker (Wycombe), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West), Philip Davies (Shipley), David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden), Richard Drax (South Dorset), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Chris Green (Bolton West), Mark Harper (Forest of Dean), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), David Jones (Clwyd West), Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire), Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Esther McVey (Tatton), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Henry Smith (Crawley), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Desmond Swayne (New Forest West), Charles Walker (Broxbourne), William Wragg (Hazel Grove).

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?