Health secretary Matt Hancock has been accused by a Manchester MP of ‘punishing’ the city and the wider region by imposing tougher lockdown restrictions than in London.
Labour’s Graham Stringer said that by reintroducing Tier 3 measures the government and prime minister Boris Johnson were ‘valuing jobs in London over jobs in Manchester’.
The MP for Blackley and Broughton also confirmed that he would be voting against the new coronavirus regulations today, instead of following the Labour party line to abstain.
Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Stringer urged the government to give more funding to local authorities to tackle the spread of Covid-19.
He described the test and trace system as being too slow, and said the new tiering arrangements would see more people dying at home as cancer services are withdrawn.
Mr Stringer said: “There isn’t a way forward where people don’t die in this situation, and that’s tragic but we sometimes speak as though if we have the most restrictive measures, which will undoubtedly stop people contracting Covid, that will be fine - it’s not.
“The first lockdown led to people dying from cancer as cancer services were withdrawn, people didn’t go to hospitals and if they did they often didn’t get treatment. The number of people dying at home increased dramatically over that period.
“The proposals before us today will be extraordinarily damaging to the economy of Greater Manchester and other parts of the UK.
“Remember poverty kills, it’s not just cancer or Covid that kills.”
Turning to Mr Hancock seated opposite in the Commons chamber, Mr Stringer said the criteria used to allocate the new tiers had not been made clear enough in the weeks leading up to the parliamentary vote.
It was suggested that the health secretary had not reacted well to Greater Manchester leaders challenging the justification to impose the toughest restrictions on the city-region.
Mr Stringer said: “In fact Greater Manchester was going to be punished for taking the time to put him right on the science and the detail of what was happening in Greater Manchester.
“The secretary of state showed his prejudice against Greater Manchester, and the proposals he’s put forward will wreak economic havoc on Greater Manchester.
“We are told, though we clearly weren’t present, that when [Michael Gove,Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster] was making his proposals to lock down London, the prime minister and ex-mayor of London said no you can’t do that, it will cost half a million jobs.
“What that means to me is this government valuing jobs in London over jobs in Manchester and elsewhere in this country.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has instructed his MPs to abstain against the new regulations having previously backed the government measures - including the latest lockdown.
But Mr Stringer said he would once again be voting out of step with his party and opposing the government.