New Covid restrictions are expected to become law this week as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer confirmed his party will be supporting the Government in Tuesday’s vote.
It comes as the Prime Minister could potentially be facing the largest rebellion of his premiership, with more than 60 Conservative MPs said to be against the imposition of further restrictive measures.
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson announced he would be triggering Plan B, in a bid to buy the UK time in the fight against the Omicron variant of the virus.
Tories have reacted with dismay to the proposals, with tens of backbenchers pledging to vote down plans for vaccine passports to be made mandatory for large venues, compulsory mask-wearing in most public indoor settings, as well as guidance for employees to work from home where they can.
Despite the prospect of a Tory backbench revolt, Plan B is expected to become law as Sir Keir told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show he will vote with the Government.
He said: “If you look at the science in relation to Omicron, the new variant, there is a real concern that we could be in a situation where the number of cases is doubling in a shorter period of two days.
“Now, I understand people say that that hasn’t led to higher hospitalisations and deaths yet, but the sheer volume of cases is very, very worrying.”
He added: “So, I’m not supporting the Prime Minister on Tuesday, I’m supporting our NHS, and I’m supporting the public in relation to this pandemic.”
Sir Keir also insisted that, while he is not “comfortable” with the idea of vaccine passports, he believes they are necessary.
“I went to Arsenal Football Club yesterday to watch the match, as I always do. That system has been in place on a volunteer basis so we know that it works, but am I comfortable with these restrictions and measures? No, I wish it didn’t have to happen.”
Among those who have voiced concerns about the scaling-up of restrictions are former Cabinet ministers David Davis, Esther McVey, Dr Liam Fox, Greg Clark and former Brexit minister Steve Baker.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Baker said he will vote against further restrictions because they are “wrong” and “disproportionate”.
He said: “I will vote against vaccine passports, of course I will. I’ll vote against extending mask mandates, and I’ll vote against mandatory vaccination as a condition of NHS employment.
“I think all these things are wrong, they’re disproportionate and there’s inadequate evidence that they’re required. And I really think this is the crucial point here now – what’s on the table is what kind of society we’re creating as we go forward.”
According to the Sun, Mr Baker told MPs in the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) – a group of anti-lockdown Tories – WhatsApp chat that ministerial resignations are “likely” during the restrictions row.
Mr Baker said he does not comment on leaks, when approached by the PA news agency.
Asked about the prospect of a Tory rebellion, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said he is “confident” MPs will examine the proposals “seriously, soberly and thoughtfully” in light of the speed at which Omicron has been spreading across the UK.