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Husband of Test and Trace boss joins Tory backlash against tiering decisions

Written by on 26/11/2020

The husband of the NHS Test and Trace scheme’s boss has joined a growing number of Conservative MPs in expressing their anger at the allocation of new coronavirus restrictions.

John Penrose, the Weston-super-Mare MP, attacked the “illogical” decision to place his constituency in Tier 3, the toughest level of restrictions, when England’s national lockdown ends next week.

In a joint statement with North Somerset MP Liam Fox, his parliamentary neighbour, Mr Penrose said the decision to put both their areas into Tier 3 – despite nearby areas being in Tier 2 – “isn’t right or fair”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, London.
Image: Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from unhappy Conservative MPs

They Tory MPs said: “On our own, North Somerset might well qualify to be in Tier 2, but we have been placed in Tier 3 because we are regarded as ‘a natural travel to work area’ along with Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

“The fact that Bath and North East Somerset is in Tier 2, even though it is part of the same ‘natural travel to work area’, makes the decision even more illogical.”

Mr Penrose is married to Baroness Harding, the head of the much-criticised NHS Test and Trace programme.

He was not alone among Tory MPs criticising the tiering allocation for their constituencies, with many having publicly expressed their concern.

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The announcement of tiering allocations on Thursday saw 99% of the population in England told they will live under the toughest two tiers from next Wednesday.

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Amid pressure from Conservative backbenchers, the government has promised to publish an impact assessment of the new three-tiered system of local restrictions before MPs vote on it next week.

But some Tory MPs have already said they will rebel against the government’s plan in the House of Commons.

Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said he will vote against the measures next week.

“I have severe reservations on so many different levels,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.

“I do think that the policies have been far too authoritarian.”

Tim Loughton, the East Worthing and Shoreham MP, also warned he would rebel if the “clinical and economic data and assessment” that led to the decision to put his constituency into Tier 2 was “not convincing”.

Former minister Tobias Ellwood, the MP for Bournemouth East, said he was “puzzled” why the south coast town had been placed in Tier 2.

“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.”

Steve Baker, leader of the COVID Recovery Group of Tory MPs who are sceptical of lockdown measures, said: “The authoritarianism at work today is truly appalling.

“But is it necessary and proportionate to the threat from this disease?”

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Former cabinet ministers Greg Clark and Damian Green were among seven Tory MPs to express their disappointment at the whole of Kent being placed into Tier 3.

“Kent is a very large county with distinct areas within it, which is reflected in the vast differences in the incidence of COVID,” the group of MPs wrote in a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“These restrictions, as well as dealing a big blow to the local businesses in our communities, risk undermining public support for measures if they are seen not to be justified by the incidence of COVID.”

 Sky News

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