Senior Tory MP accuses ministers of a Christmas coronavirus cover-up

Senior Tory Sir Charles Walker accuses ministers of a Christmas coronavirus cover-up as he claims they waited for MPs to go on holiday before announcing Tier 4 to avoid backlash in the Commons

  • Sir Charles Walker claimed ministers ‘knew on Thursday’ about rule changes
  • But he said they delayed ‘pulling the plug’ until Parliament went into recess
  • He said the handling of the coronavirus crisis should be a ‘resigning matter’ 

A senior Tory today accused ministers of deliberately delaying the announcement they were ‘pulling the plug’ on Christmas until after MPs went on holiday in order to avoid a backlash in the House of Commons. 

Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, said he believed ministers ‘knew on Thursday’ they were going to toughen curbs for the festive period. 

Parliament broke for its Christmas holiday on Thursday which means the Government’s new coronavirus restrictions have been rolled out without a debate or a vote. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said MPs will be able to have their say on the Tier 4 measures when they return to the Commons in January. 

Sir Charles has called for Cabinet resignations over what he believes has been a Christmas coronavirus cover-up. 

Sir Charles Walker today claimed ministers ‘knew on Thursday’ they were going to ‘pull the plug’ on Christmas but waited until MPs went on holiday to make the announcement

Sir Charles told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: ‘The Government, in my view, knew on Thursday, possibly even Wednesday, that they were going to pull the plug on Christmas but they waited till Parliament had gone.

‘That, on top of everything else, is a resigning matter. I am not asking for the Government to collapse. I am asking for a secretary of state to take some responsibility.’  

Earlier today, Mr Hancock insisted ministers were only informed on Friday that an increase in infections in London and the South East of England was linked to a mutant new strain of coronavirus. Boris Johnson then announced the new Tier 4 measures and tighter Christmas rules yesterday.

However, Sir Charles suggested the Government was seeking to avoid renewed parliamentary scrutiny after MPs had previously backed a relaxation of the controls for five days over the Christmas period.

He said: ‘I think many colleagues find that extremely egregious. The Christmas period was passed into law by the House of Commons in a vote after a debate.

‘The view of most colleagues was for that to be changed, another vote would be required in the House of Commons. 

‘So I suspect a decision was delayed until we were safely away back to our constituencies.’

Mr Hancock, appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, made clear he had no intention of resigning, saying he was dealing with the pandemic ‘in the best way that we possibly can’.

He said: ‘I know that Charles is very upset at the measures that we’ve had to bring in, and he has been (upset) throughout. I understand that and I understand where he’s coming from.

‘But unfortunately these measures are absolutely necessary to save lives.’

Sir Charles has called for Cabinet resignations over the matter but Health Secretary Matt Hancock today dismissed calls for ministers to quit

Sir Charles’s attack comes amid growing frustration among some Tory MPs who believe the Government’s measures are too draconian and represent an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties, while also wrecking the economy.

It suggests an extraordinary breakdown of trust between ministers and a section of the Conservative Party in Parliament.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson suffered the biggest backbench rebellion of his premiership when 55 Conservative MPs voted against the introduction of new tiered controls for England.

The Government has said MPs will have a chance to vote on the latest measures when the Commons returns in January, and they will be withdrawn if defeated.

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