The government has defeated – by a majority of 79 votes – the Labour motion in the House of Commons this afternoon that demanded a “fair one nation deal” for those living under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.
Labour had been calling on the government to publish “clear and fair national criteria for financial support” in areas facing tougher Covid rules, and for the local furlough scheme to offer at least 80% of incomes rather than 67%.
Two Conservative MPs – Bolton West’s Chris Green and Hazel Grove’s William Wragg, both of whom represent constituencies in the Greater Manchester area – voted with Labour in favour of the motion today.
The debate that took place ahead of the vote was overshadowed by a moment in which Conservative MP Chris Clarkson said deputy leader Angela Rayner had called him “scum” from the opposition frontbench during his speech.
Following the incident, Rayner told the Deputy Speaker: “One of the things I’d ask your guidance on is on members saying things about the frontbench which are inaccurate in their speech, and I’d ask them to withdraw it.”
Clarkson had claimed, as other Tory MPs did during the debate, that “Andy [Burnham] got up and walked away from the table”, although the Greater Manchester mayor says it was the government that walked away from talks.
He also accused Burnham and the Labour frontbench of “opportunism”, and claimed the vote on the impact of Tier 3 rules being forced by the opposition party today was “designed for release on social media afterwards”.
Rayner had used her opening speech to say: “This is not just about Greater Manchester. This is about all of us. We will not be picked off one by one. Offered the crumbs when we helped bake the loaf. We deserve a fair slice.”
The party chair told MPs: “We are starting down the barrel of a bleak winter because the government has lost control of the virus. Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are rising. Deaths, tragically, are rising.
“The testing system is collapsed. People and businesses across the country will be anxious that they will not be able to make ends meet and put food on the table. Our motion today will ensure a fair, national deal for the country.”
In a closing speech for Labour, Anneliese Dodds accused the government of adopting a “phantom framework” after Robert Jenrick claimed this morning that they had a formula for financial support offered to Tier 3 areas.
The Shadow Chancellor asked why the formula had not been published, and suggested other factors to include in it – such as the length of time the area had been under restrictions, the number of business and workers affected, and deprivation levels.
Labour’s Toby Perkins also doubted the claim that there was a formula, saying: “They don’t even lie well. This government is so inept that they can’t even get their story straight when they’re screwing people over.”
Shadow minister Tracy Brabin, who is running to be Labour’s candidate for West Yorkshire mayor, criticised government claims to prioritise the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, adding: “It’s more like the ‘Northern Poorhouse’.”
Former leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey, who represents a Greater Manchester seat, said: “The sums requested by Greater Manchester yesterday was a speck compared to the millions given to Serco, G4S, KPMG, Deloitte and other private firms in this pandemic.”
She added: “This doesn’t appear to be an exercise in infection control. It appears to be an exercise in keeping the North and other Tier 3 areas away from the rest of the country to engage in our own version of The Hunger Games, where only the fittest and wealthiest will survive.”
Ian Byrne, a Liverpool MP since 2019, described Chancellor Rishi Sunak as “one of the richest men in parliament” and suggested that as a result he “has absolutely no idea just what he is asking of the people” during Covid.
The Labour MP added: “Can he really appreciate what it means to live off £5.76 an hour? If he had walked in their shoes, maybe the strategy he is following would be different. I invite him to come to Liverpool and speak to the Scouse cabbies.”
Imran Hussain similarly highlighted the difficulties faced by self-employed workers, saying: “The self-employed risk being forgotten, as they nearly were by ministers at the start of this crisis. Our taxi drivers, delivery drivers, tradesmen and others all deserve support.”
He also stressed that support for Tier 2 areas was insufficient as: “Under these restrictions, our businesses may not have been told to close, but they are still facing significant downturns in trading. Our hospitality sector in particular is being savaged.”
Shabana Mahmood described it as “the worst of all worlds” as “your business base has been decimated because of public health measures”. She said: “It’s nonsensical that you end up wishing you’re in Tier 3 just to get some support.”
While many Conservative MPs attacked Andy Burnham in particular for insisting on further support for Greater Manchester as the area enters Tier 3 restrictions, Tory MP William Wragg defended the efforts of the local Labour mayor.
In contrast to many colleagues, Wragg argued: “If it is the case that we must close by law, it is only right that local representatives should strive for every penny from the government that has mandated their closure.”
After refusing to confirm the amount of support being offered to Greater Manchester yesterday, the Prime Minister told MPs this afternoon that the area would receive £60m to help businesses through Tier 3 lockdown.