Dominic Raab Says Manchester Can Be Put Into Tier 3 Lockdown Against Local Leaders' Wishes
Dominic Raab has accused Andy Burnham of trying to "hold the government over a barrel" (PA)
The foreign secretary Dominic Raab has hinted the government is willing to put Greater Manchester into a Tier 3 lockdown against the wishes of local leaders amid a row over financial compensation.
He accused the mayor Andy Burnham of trying to "hold the government over a barrel” after he and other politicians in the region resisted being placed into the strictest measures.
Mr Raab said Number 10 “will keep talking and we'll keep working” as Boris Johnson’s three-tier system threatens to come undone just days after being introduced.
But he told Sky News: "Obviously in the last resort the government has the powers to proceed in any event, but we would much rather work with the local leaders if at all possible.”
"If Manchester and, if Andy Burnham, are just pulling up the drawbridge and just saying 'we're not going to proceed unless more money is coming in', I don't think that's an appropriate way to proceed," Mr Raab said.
"We can't have a situation where Andy Burnham is effectively saying unless you give us what we want, we're not going to do the right thing in terms of following the new rules which will protect the very people of Manchester he's elected to represent."
Last night Mr Burnham gave a press conference where he attacked the government’s strategy and accused them of treating the North "with contempt” and trying out policies “on the cheap”.
"We have to protect the health of the nation but let's do it as one nation, and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn't make sense in the real world," he said.
And arguing against being placed in the “very high” category for measures, which would see pubs and gyms closed altogether, he said even the deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, did not think it would drive down cases, and the only way to do so was to implement a full national lockdown.
Mr Raab hit back this morning, telling BBC Breakfast: "Ultimately we need to take action - we can't have a situation as we have seen in Manchester where Andy Burnham is effectively trying to hold the Government over a barrel over money and politics when actually we need to take action.
"The cases there are 470 per 100,000 so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area, and if we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected... we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown."
He urged Mr Burnham to "do the right thing by the people of Manchester”, but he responded on Twitter saying: "It's not about what we want for ourselves, Mr Raab. It's about what we want for low-paid and self-employed people everywhere: fairness.”
So far only Liverpool and some nearby areas have been placed in the third tier of restrictions, though it is though Lancashire and parts of the North East may soon follow it.
Mr Raab said talks were continuing with Lancashire leaders and that the Government wanted to "get those arrangements put in place".
He added: "I think the right thing both on public health grounds but also supporting the economy, supporting jobs, livelihoods, supporting our society and the most vulnerable in it is to avoid a second national lockdown.
"The way to do it is with a tiered approach that we've advocated. That will only work, the scientists tell us, if everyone really leans in and implements it to the maximum."