Covid tiers: MPs back tougher system for England, despite Tory rebellion
A new tougher tier system of coronavirus restrictions for England will begin on Wednesday, 2nd December, after the plan was approved by MPs.
The measures, which will come into force at 00:01 GMT, were supported by 291 votes to 78.
The new system will see more than 55 million people in the country placed into the top two strictest tiers.
But 55 Tory MPs voted against the government plan - the largest rebellion of Boris Johnson's premiership.
A further 16 Conservatives abstained, with many of them having expressed concerns about the tougher tiers in the Commons debate that led up to the vote.
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The new tier system comes into force when England's current lockdown ends in the early hours of Wednesday.
Every area of the country is in one of three tiers - medium (one), high (two) and very high (three) - with the vast majority of the population in the higher two tiers.
They are tougher than the previous tier system the country was under, before its second lockdown began in November, the government says.
In tier two, people are not allowed to mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble indoors, although they can socialise in groups of up to six outdoors.
And in tier three, people must also not mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble indoors, or at most outdoor venues.
Conservative Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, urged the government to listen to the warnings from its opponents about the "cycle of repeated restrictions".
He said they "very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing".
But he added that the government "must find a way to... end this devastating cycle of repeated restrictions, and start living in a sustainable way until an effective and safe vaccine is successfully rolled out across the population".
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, voted against the plans, saying: "If government is to take away fundamental liberties of the people whom we represent, they must demonstrate beyond question that they're acting in a way that is both proportionate and absolutely necessary.
"Today, I believe the government has failed to make that compelling case."
And former cabinet minister, Damian Green, whose Kent constituency is in the highest tier, also said the plans lacked public support, adding: "I've had the most angry emails over a weekend since the Dominic Cummings trip to Barnard Castle."
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new tiered system would help "avoid another lockdown", and "help the UK bridge into the spring, where we hope a vaccine will move us into a whole different place".