Labour “not in a position to make a decision yet” on backing Covid tiers

Shadow health minister Justin Madders has said that the Labour Party is “not in a position to make a decision yet” on whether it will back the return to a tiered coronavirus system amid Tory opposition to the rules.

Boris Johnson announced this week that people in England would face a return to the three-tier system after the lockdown ends, and just three areas – Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Scilly – have been placed in Tier 1.

From December 2nd, the majority of England will be placed in Tier 2, under which people must not socialise indoors with anyone from outside of their bubble, nor socialise in a group of more than six people outside.

Significant areas will enter Tier 3, however, in which hospitality settings are closed. This will include Greater Manchester and Birmingham, while London will remain in Tier 2 and Liverpool is set to enter Tier 2.

The Prime Minister is facing a backlash over the way tiers have been allocated. He noted this morning that people find it “frustrating” to be in the highest tier when there is “very little incidence in their village or their area”.

Johnson said: “The difficulty is that if you did it any other way, first of all you’d divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions. There has got to be some simplicity and clarity in the way we do this.”

It has been reported that up to 70 Tory MPs could vote against the plans or abstain if there is not significant change to the system between now and Tuesday when the vote in the House of Commons is set to take place.

Asked on Times Radio this morning whether Labour would vote for the Covid measures, which have been described as “risky” by Keir Starmer, Madders from the party’s health team said: “We are not in a position to make a decision yet.

“We’re still looking at the announcement yesterday and actually the regulations that will come with the with the vote next week haven’t been published. And, of course, you would expect us to actually look at the detail of what we’re voting for before making a decision.”

The Labour frontbencher concluded: “So I’m afraid I can’t give you an answer on that just yet.” On whether restrictions would have to made more local, he added that this was a demand the government would “need to reflect”.

On Conservative MPs who believe the system should be more specific in the areas covered, particularly for Kent, Madders commented: “I think that is a fair critique.

“It may be that the reason why the announcements just today were done in such large areas was to really try and avoid the the detailed negotiations that have happened in the past over over each area, because of course, we haven’t had all the country going into different tiers all the same time.

“And that may be a management issue. But I think that there are undoubtedly going to be lots of individual local areas where you might say, actually, if you look at those as a whole, you could make an argument for high tier, but if you look at this particular part of the area, a lower tier is a much more appropriate place to be.

“I think that that’s part of the the debate we’re going to have about making sure that the public has got confidence that this is the right thing to do.”

The Labour leader criticised the Prime Minister’s plans on Monday, saying: “If we’re reintroducing a three-tier system without having fixed test, trace and isolate, that is a major risk… There are huge gaps in this plan, huge uncertainties and huge risk.”

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