Labour will abstain in a key vote on Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus tiers on Tuesday, the party has said.
Speaking on Monday night Keir Starmer said his party was acting « in the national interest » by not opposing the regulations, but said he had reservations about them.
The prime minister is expected to face a rebellion from Tory backbenchers over the plans, which will see many parts of the country effectively stay in a lighter form of lockdown until Christmas.
The move by Labour is significant because it resents the first time the opposition has failed to back the government in a vote on Covid-19 regulations.
« Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public’s health and that’s why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions. We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow, » Sir Keir said.
He continued: « However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.
« We still don’t have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months. It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy.
“It is imperative that the Government gets control of the virus so that our NHS can be protected and our economy recovers faster.”
A party source confirmed that Labour would abstain in the vote on Tuesday.
Previous rebellions by Conservative MPs have no been large enough to put a dent in the prime minister’s public health plans, given his large majority and the support of the opposition.
He is expected to face a rebellion by as many as 70 MPs, who say they have concerns about civil liberties and the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions on their constituents.
Under the new regulations, which will replace England’s national lockdown from 2 December, hospitality businesses like pubs and restaurants will remain closed in the highest alert areas, but outdoor sports will be allowed to return.