The Prime Minister will be asking MPs to agree to the six month renewal of the Government’s so-called Henry VIII emergency powers to be able to impose restrictions at will to tackle the pandemic. But already senior MPs in his own party have warned that significant numbers could vote against unless there are moves to end lockdown and revitalise the economy. Former cabinet minister Esther McVey, the founder of the powerful Blue Collar Conservatism Movement, said: “It is absolutely essential that once the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated the government start easing the lockdowns.
“These restrictions are doing huge damage to people’s livelihoods and mental health in particular, and the government must start to stand up to those siren voices who want lockdowns and restriction to become a near permanent feature of our lives.
“If the government don’t start making rapid headway in doing that it will be the duty of Parliament to remove these swingeing powers from them.”
She also raised concerns over the way seemingly exaggerated estimates are being used to push public policy.
Previously there have been question marks over Professor Neil Ferguson’s claims that 500,000 would die of covid-19 which initiated the first lockdown and then the claims by Professor chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Valance in the late autumn of 5,000 infections a day which preceded the second lockdown.
Ms McVey argued that the concerns are highlighted in a written answer on prisoner deaths.
At the start of the pandemic the government was pushed to have a mass early release of prisoners because thousands would be killed by coronavirus.
Ministers eventually resisted the calls and a written answer has revealed that just 47 died of the disease.
Ms McVey said: “There is no better example of the scaremongering to drive government policy they wanted to see from the so-called experts than the predictions on prisoner deaths.
“I appreciate that these estimates aren’t an exact science but the difference between a prediction of 2700 to the reality of 47 is embarrassing to say the least, and shows why the government must not hand over total policy control to the scientists who are clearly not infallible with their predictions.”
Earlier this week the Covid Recovery Group chairman Mark Harper led the way with a demand that ministers “must come forward now with a plan for lifting restrictions”.
He highlighted the damage being done to children with schools closed as well as the economy and the risk of other non-covid unnecessary deaths being increased by lockdown.
There are concerns that a vocal minority of scientists are trying to keep lockdown and restrictions in place for the rest of the year.
And MPs have privately voiced concerns that leaks by some scientists of reports on the possible but unproven effects of new mutations have been timed to try to “squash opposition” to lockdowns.
Sir Desmond Swayne, one of Parliament’s foremost critics of the lockdown, accused the Government of “mission creep” and called for a public debate about when restrictions should be eased.
The Conservative MP is alarmed by Boris Johnson’s leadership on the issue and by the influence of champions of lockdowns on his decisions.
He said: “It seems to me that Boris has been completely taken over. He’s completely given over to these people and as a consequence there’s a complete lack of any sense of urgency on the need to lift restrictions.
Sir Desmond is gravely concerned by speculation the hospitality industry could still be shuttered in June.
He said: “The notion there will be any industry left in June is barking. What we’ve seen is the most extraordinary mission creep.
“Remember, the issue was to protect the NHS, stop the NHS being overwhelmed by hospital admissions. Clearly, as we vaccinate that proportion of the population most likely to be hospitalised were they to be infected, that risk of the NHS being overwhelmed diminishes.
“They should be planning now at what stage they will lift the restrictions. At what proportion of the most vulnerable being vaccinated will the risk be acceptable?
‘That’s the sort of thing they ought to be taking us into their confidence [about] and debating in public now. But what we’re getting is this mission creep.”