Tory rebels demand Michael Gove publish evidence for NHS claim

Furious Tory rebels DEMAND Michael Gove publish his evidence after he claims the NHS – including Nightingale emergency hospitals – could be ‘overwhelmed’ by coronavirus cases without the Government’s tier system

  • Michael Gove claimed on Saturday without tiers NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’ 
  • Comments sparked a Tory backlash with MPs demanding he publish evidence 
  • Rebel leader Mark Harper said Tory MPs need ‘hard evidence, not hyperbole’ 

Furious Tory rebels today demanded Michael Gove publish the evidence underpinning his claim the NHS would be ‘overwhelmed’ by coronavirus without the Government’s new tiered system of restrictions. 

The Minister for the Cabinet Office made the claim on Saturday as he tried to quash a Conservative revolt and persuade MPs to support the curbs when they are put to a vote on Tuesday. 

But leading Tories responded with anger to the suggestion as they called for the Government to stick to ‘hard evidence, not hyperbole’. 

Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs which is opposing the measures, told Mr Gove that ‘if he genuinely thinks that hospitals would be overwhelmed, then show us the modelling’ which proves it.  

Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, is under fire from Tory MPs after claiming the NHS would be ‘overwhelmed’ without the Government’s new tier system

Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said ministers should stick to ‘hard evidence, not hyperbole’

The vast majority of England – 99 per cent – is due to be placed into tier 2 or 3, with only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly going into tier 1.    

As many as 100 Tory MPs are said to be considering rebelling at Tuesday’s vote because they believe the Government has not yet made the case for the draconian measures. 

Labour is expected to back the curbs which means they will almost certainly be agreed by the House of Commons. 

But a Tory rebellion on the scale predicted would cause massive damage to Boris Johnson’s authority. 

Mr Gove said in an article for The Times that MPs must ‘take responsibility for difficult decisions’ to curb the spread of Covid-19 as he said every hospital in England could be in trouble if the tiers are not rolled out. 

He said: ‘Covid-19 is no respecter of constituency boundaries and the hardships we are facing now are unfortunately necessary to protect every single one of us, no matter where we live.

‘In any analysis of this government’s, or any government’s approach, the cost of lockdown and restrictions cannot be reckoned against the status quo ante, but only against the cost of inaction, or inadequate action, and the overwhelming of the NHS.’

He added: ‘The truth, however uncomfortable, sets you free. And these new tiers, alongside the wider deployment of mass testing, have the capacity to prevent our NHS being overwhelmed until vaccines arrive.’  

Mr Harper told Times Radio this morning that Mr Gove must publish the evidence to support the claim. 

He said: ‘I’d say to Michael, you made these decisions on Wednesday, so show us the evidence and the reason why I say that is this: last time when we were debating the lockdown… a slide was leaked from the Cabinet Office, the department that Michael Gove runs, which suggested the same thing, that hospitals would be overwhelmed. 

‘At the press conference the following day, that slide was never published, the information which underlay it was never published and we now know that information on that slide was not correct. 

‘So all I’m saying to Michael is if he genuinely thinks, and this would weigh heavily with me, if he genuinely thinks that hospitals would be overwhelmed, then show us the modelling and the evidence that he has seen so that all MPs can see it, and we can take that decision. So I simply don’t know whether it’s true. 

‘All I’m saying is he’s convinced by that information, well share it with Parliament, so that we can take a decision with all of the information he has at his disposal.

‘He wants us to take responsibility for these decisions. I agree with him, but we can’t be expected to do that if we’re not taking into the government’s confidence with that information. As I said: Hard evidence, not hyperbole.’ 

Almost the entire nation is set to be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, officials admitted last night. The senior sources said it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect areas under the toughest curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring

Under a ‘virtual lockdown’ 99 per cent of the population will be put in the top two tiers, which ban household gatherings and cripple the hospitality trade

The Covid Recovery Group wants the Government to publish a full impact assessment of the measures, including taking into account damage to the economy, before the vote takes place.   

Mr Gove’s claim proved particularly controversial because he appeared to be including capacity at Nightingale emergency hospitals which were set up during the pandemic as a contingency measure just in case the rest of the NHS was overrun. 

However, an NHS spokesman told The Observer that currently just two out of seven Nightingale hospitals – those in Manchester and Exeter – had begun to admit patients.

Meanwhile, ministers faced further accusations of exaggerating capacity issues within the NHS after it was claimed a health minister told Tory MPs that Nightingale hospitals were largely empty. 

Tory MPs told The Observer that Nadine Dorries had told a group of them last week that the Nightingale hospitals were largely unfilled because they are viewed as ‘dark and dingy’, making it hard to recruit staff to work there. Sources close to Ms Dorries denied she had used those words. 

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