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Government accused of trying to ‘terrify’ public over coronavirus

The prime minister and government officials have been accused of trying to "terrify" the British public over coronavirus.

Conservative MPs voiced their disquiet with aspects of Boris Johnson's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in a lengthy Commons debate.

It comes ahead of a looming showdown over the government's powers to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

PM: New restrictions could last 'six months'

MPs will vote on Wednesday on whether to renew the powers in the Coronavirus Act, with Downing Street battling to avoid what would be a damaging rebellion on the issue.

The PM is coming under pressure to give parliament more of a role in debating and voting on new coronavirus restrictions.


An amendment put forward by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, has gained the support of dozens of Conservatives.

More than 50 Tories have signalled they could rebel against the government if the amendment is put to a vote, which would be enough to hand Mr Johnson a high-profile defeat if opposition parties all throw their collective weight behind it.

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Ministers held talks with potential rebels on Wednesday evening in a bid to ward off a revolt.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, chief whip Mark Spencer and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg met with them to try and address their concerns.

COVID rules: 'This is how liberty dies'

Former minister Steve Baker, who has given his backing to Sir Graham's amendment, described the gathering as "cordial and constructive meeting".

"I hope and expect we will reach a satisfactory agreement," he said.

Mr Hancock told MPs in the Commons earlier that ministers were "looking at further ways to ensure the House can be properly involved in the process in advance where possible".

The health secretary said he agreed that parliament should have the "appropriate level of scrutiny", but this needed to be balanced with the need to ensure the government can "move fast where that is necessary".

A senior government source has told Sky's political editor Beth Rigby that Number 10 is confident the Brady amendment will not be selected by the Speaker for a vote.

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"We've always said we're happy to give more time to debate and discuss these things. It's now clear the Brady amendment is out of scope and so will not be voted on," they said.

But a senior Tory told Rigby: "The decision is the Speaker's and I'm not sure he'll share that view. If he's clear there's a majority for it (which there is), he'll try to allow the House to vote on it."

Either way, Monday's Commons debate demonstrated that there is palpable unhappiness among some Conservative MPs around elements of the government's coronavirus response.

Sir Desmond Swayne, a former minister, questioned if Mr Johnson had been "abducted by Dr Strangelove and reprogrammed by the SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] over to the dark side", a reference to the 1964 satirical film about fears of a nuclear conflict during the Cold War.

He hit out at the government's chief scientific and medical advisers for warning that 200 or more people could die each day by the middle of November if no action was taken to drive down the rate of infection.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance
UK could face 200-plus deaths per day in November

"It was project fear, it was an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they haven't been terrifRead More – Source


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