Ministers have to ask MPs to approve coronavirus lockdown measures in simple unamendable “yes/no” votes in the Commons within weeks of them coming into force.
Two votes on lockdown restrictions in England are expected in the next 48 hours – one on Tuesday night on the “rule of six”, which limits gatherings to six people and came into force on September 14, and a second on Wednesday on the 10pm curfew, which has applied nationally since September 24.
While only a handful of Tory MPs are likely to rebel on the “rule of six”, dozens more are expected to try to vote down the curfew.
Rebel Conservatives – emboldened after last week forcing the Government to give MPs a veto on all future national lockdowns before they come into force – said on Monday that they could muster the necessary 43 Tory MPs to vote with Labour to overturn the Government’s 85 working majority.
One Tory MP said: “My sense is that a material number of MPs might vote against the 10pm.” Another said: “If it transpires that Labour is going to oppose it, then I would think there would be enough of us who would be inclined to vote against it.”
Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister who last week acted as an unofficial whip for Tory rebels, said: “Very few members of Parliament have constituencies which will bear voting against every infringement of liberty.
“However, there is a growing consensus that neither the 10pm curfew, nor including children in the ‘rule of six’, are well evidenced. I expect quite a few members of Parliament to take issue on those two points.”
Sir Desmond Swayne, a senior Tory MP, said: “The 10pm [curfew] is a huge mistake. The virus can’t tell the time. It is just absurd to impose this across the country.”
Sir Graham Brady, who is expected to rebel, told the BBC that patience with the Government’s local lockdown restrictions is starting to “wear thin”.
On Monday, Mr Sunak said of the 10pm curfew: “Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this.”