Boris Johnson faces a potential struggle to get Government lockdown measures past the Commons next week.
MPs must vote on extending emergency powers put in place to allow ministers to take action to shut down parts or all of England, amid concerns about the scale and scope of new measures unveiled this week.
As many as 50 are prepared to rebel and refuse to back the extension and a minister has threatened to resign, according to the Telegraph.
Such a move, if they vote against the measure, would wipe out the Government’s 80-seat majority, although many could choose to abstain, which could make it a close vote and could avoid them possibly losing the party whip if it sneaks through.
There is growing disquiet on Tory benches at the evidence used to justify a return to working-from-home announced by Mr Johnson on Tuesday, as well as measured like a 10pm pub and restaurant curfew.
They fear for the impact on an economy already holed below the waterline.
However, an amendment proposed by Tory backbench leader Sir Graham Brady that would give MPs a say over lockdown legislation may have been kicked into touch.
Reports suggest that his change will not be chosen by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. But Sir Graham Brady told MailOnline he hoped that the sizable backing for his amendment would be ‘persuasive’ in getting it put to MPs by the Speaker.
He added that he had had ‘encouraging discussions’ with the Government over the concerns it covered, adding: ‘I’m very hopeful they will do it and it won’t have to be pushed to a vote.’
There is growing disquiet on Tory benches at the evidence used to justify a return to working-from-home announced by Mr Johnson (left) on Tuesday, as well as measured like a 10pm pub and restaurant curfew. An amendment proposed by Tory backbench leader Sir Graham Brady (right) would give MPs a say over lockdown legislation
A small number of commuters at Waterloo Station, in London in the middle of what should be rush hour on Thursday, after the PMannounced a range of new restrictions to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England
MPs will have a full day’s debate on the lockdown powers on Monday, but Sir Graham said that the way the hybrid House of Commons was functioning under social distancing and shielding measures was limiting the ability of Tory MPs to voice concerns with the legislation.
‘One of the problems is the way the House of Commons is still not allowed to function properly, he said.
‘You have a very limited number, no more than I think 25 or 26, of Conservative MPs in the chamber at any one time. They are all people who happen to have come up in a ballot as wanting to ask a question.
‘It really does limit the capacity for people to raise concerns. You have a colleague who is very worried about what these things are going to do to local businesses, who doesn’t come up in the ballot for two weeks in all sorts of statements and questions.
‘I think that is one of the reasons I think there is a building frustration among colleagues.’
Experts have warned the UK will face ‘hefty tax rises’ by the middle of the decade to pay for the coronavirus crisis as Rishi Sunak prepares to today unveil his plans to replace furlough and stave off massive job losses over the winter.
The Chancellor will announce his new Winter Economy Plan at lunchtime and its centrepiece is expected to be a wage subsidy scheme which will see the Government top up the pay of people who can only work part-time.
Mr Sunak’s multi-billion pound package of support is also likely to include further VAT cuts and the extension of emergency loan schemes for struggling businesses.
The closure of the Government’s furlough scheme at the end of October has sparked dire warnings of waves of redundancies in the coming months with the Treasury due to focus its firepower on saving viable jobs rather than ‘zombie’ ones which have no future.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Government would ‘put in the absolute maximum economic support’ it could, but recognised it could not save every job or every business.
Asked why Prime Minister Boris Johnson had suggested there could be a six-month timeline to restrictions, Mr Hancock said: ‘I think it’s really important to level with people. I think it’s really important for us in Government, leading people through this very difficult time, to be straight with people about what we see as the problems ahead and the timetable ahead.
‘We want to give hope with what’s coming – you know what, we can get through this – of course we do. But we also need that hope to be grounded in realism, because if it’s not grounded in realism, then it’s not true.’
Mr Hancock said he would not rule anything out when asked whether students at universities suffering outbreaks would be told not to go home for Christmas.
‘I don’t want to have a situation like that, and I very much hope we can avoid it,’ he said.
Asked if it was under consideration, he said: ‘I’ve learned not to rule things out. And one of the challenges we have is making sure that people are as safe as possible and that includes not spreading between the generations, but… this is not our goal.’