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How Kent MPs will vote on the latest Covid-19 restrictions as the whole county faces being placed into tier three

Kent MPs are likely to be among a number of Conservatives to rebel against government plans that will see the whole of the county placed into tier three from midnight tonight.

A vote on the new toughened system of restrictions, which will mean all Kent's pubs and restaurants must stay closed, will be held in Parliament today.

It is widely expected that the Government will win the vote despite a significant Tory rebellion, with Labour, Lib Dems and the SNP all having indicated they will abstain.

There has been a divide in opinions among Kent MPs, many of whom have already expressed their frustrations at being in tier three, despite lower levels of infection in some parts of the county.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has been particularly outspoken on the issue and is a member of the Covid Recovery Group, who oppose blanket measures, including the second national lockdown.

This week, he remained to be convinced that the tier system was the right way to proceed.

He said: “These decisions will shut down our local businesses, drive up unemployment and infringe our constituents’ personal liberty.

"I need proper data to prove to me that the cure is not worse than the disease. So far I have not seen it.”

"They also detrimentally impact on other (non Covid) health issues and I am particularly concerned there have been 40,000 fewer cancer diagnoses this year than last year.

"I need proper data to prove to me that the cure is not worse than the disease. So far I have not seen it.”

Ashford's Damian Green is one of a group of MPs who wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock raising concerns about placing the whole of the county in the tier with the tightest restrictions.

Asked if he would be voting against the planned system, he said: "At the moment, that's right."

Some MPs have been persuaded of the need for a stricter stance by the impact the virus has been having on hospitals.

Sevenoaks MP Laura Trott
Sevenoaks MP Laura Trott

Laura Trott, MP for Sevenoaks, said she was initially surprised and disappointed that her constituency would be in tier three but, after speaking to hospitals and health ministers she understood there was a need for "temporary heightened restrictions until the pressure on Kent hospitals subsides".

"Given this situation, there is simply no leeway in our hospital capacity, and it is vital that we use every tool possible to prevent a further rise in cases from their already high base locally," she added.

"This means that I have reluctantly accepted that tier three is necessary for our area at present.

"The Government has pledged to review our status in two weeks. If there is a reduction in pressure on our hospitals, I will push very hard for us to return to a district level tier system in Kent."

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, one of six areas of Kent where infection rates have been rising, said: "I have met with the Health Secretary and Health Ministers several times over recent days to understand the basis for Kent being put into Tier 3, why infection rates are moving in the wrong direction in our Dover area, and what rapid testing and other support is available to help us turn this around.

“Ahead of the next review date, I have been making the case for decisions about tiers to be made at a more local level."

“While disappointing, the bottom line is that virus rates are rising, when elsewhere they have been falling, and this must be reversed. So I will be voting for the Government’s measures today.

“Ahead of the next review date, I have been making the case for decisions about tiers to be made at a more local level.

"I continue to support businesses and those hit hardest by the pandemic, and have raised particular concerns about the impact on the hospitality sector.

"In the meantime, we must all play our part and remain vigilant in tackling the virus.”

There were MPs who previously supported splitting Kent into different tiers, depending on the infection rates.

Gravesham MP Adam Holloway was undecided. Picture: Parliament TV
Gravesham MP Adam Holloway was undecided. Picture: Parliament TV

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, who warned that people would travel into areas with softer restrictions, had appeared to favour a district-by-district approach.

He told Sky News: "What will happen of course is people will skip over the boundary and go to a pub or restaurant which is able to open, if there is one in tier two nearby, and that's the last thing we want."

But today he said: "I shall support the Government."

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, says he will support the introduction of the new tier system, despite having asked Mr Hancock to consider tiers on a borough and district level rather than countywide.

Following an increase in the number of cases in his constituency, he says he can not "ignore this data".

Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins
Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins

He said: "In some places infection rates are still rising. That is certainly the case in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency where the infection rate was higher on December 1, than it was when the tiering restrictions were announced the week before.

"We have also seen a concerning spike of covid cases in New Romney, which in the figures reported on November 30, suggested the infection rates were close to the high figures seen in places like Thanet and Swale.

"We cannot ignore this data.

"It is for these reasons, that I decided to support the introduction of these new covid regulations."

Gordon Henderson, who represents Sittingbourne and Sheppey, part of Swale, where infection rates have been the highest in the country, had voted against imposing a national lockdown.

Ahead of today's vote, he said: "I will be supporting the three tier system, although I have made clear to ministers that I believe the rationale should be changed about which businesses should be able to trade, with the onus being placed on whether they have been able to put in place Covid-safe measures, rather than by sector."

It is thought a number of MPs were waiting to see the latest evidence before making up their minds on how to vote.

Adam Holloway, who represents Gravesham, was among those to admit they were undecided.

All of the county's MPs have been asked how they intend to vote.

More to follow

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