Coronavirus quarantine row explodes as Boris’s OWN Cabinet furious at jail sentence threat

Matt Hancock outlines measures to defeat coronavirus variants

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Tory MPs, peers and former supreme court judges have all lined up to criticise the policy for being too draconian. Even some members of the Cabinet are understood to be uneasy about the tough new measures coming into force on Monday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the measures saying the British public “would expect pretty strong action”.

Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced new travel measures due to come into place from Monday.

As well as taking a test within 72 hours before travelling, all arrivals will have to take two more tests on days two and eight of their 10-day isolation.

Anyone who has been in 32 “red list” countries, where worrying new variants of Covid have been found, within 10 days of travelling will be forced to isolate at one of the Government’s new quarantine hotels at a cost of £1,750 per person.

Anyone found to have lied about travelling from a red-listed country risks spending a decade in prison.

But less than 24 hours after the policy was announced, there is growing anger and backlash at the measures.

Former Attorney General and Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Cox said: “I get that the Secretary of State wants to show that this is serious, but you do have to have regard to the overall balance of sentencing policy and law.”

Senior backbencher Steve Baker added: “We are now suppressing this virus at all costs and I really would implore ministers to take stock.

“At some point we are going to have to see reason and let temperance reassert itself.”

Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption criticised the detergent, writing in a newspaper article that the Health Secretary had “finally snapped”.

He wrote in The Telegraph: “Ten years is the maximum sentence for threats to kill, non-fatal poisoning or indecent assault.

“Does Mr Hancock really think that non-disclosure of a visit to Portugal is worse than the large number of violent firearms offences or sexual offences involving minors, for which the maximum is seven years?”

Meanwhile, Conservative backbencher and former Government chief whip Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, warned against the measures being in place permanently.

He said: “If the virus continues to mutate, surely the risk is going to be there forever.”

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Members of the Cabinet were said to have raised eyebrows about the policy.

Several are thought to have made their objections known when Boris Johnson’s top team met to sign off the measures yesterday morning.

Labour has also criticised the Government, accusing Mr Hancock of announcing a tough penalty in a bid to cover up an ineffective border policy.

“I’m of course in favour of there being a significant penalty for lying on a passenger locater form, it’s obviously a very serious thing to do,” Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said.

“What we shouldn’t do either is allow the announcement of an eye-catching 10 years to be in some way a substitute for an effective quarantine system that works.”

Explaining the reasoning behind the prison threat this morning, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “I think the British public would expect pretty strong action because we’re not talking now just about, ‘oh there’s a lot of coronavirus in that country and you might bring some more of it back when we already have plenty of it here’.

“What we’re talking about now are the mutations, the variants, and that is a different matter, because we don’t want to be in a situation where we later on discover that there’s a problem with vaccines.”

He added: “We do plead with people, bear in mind, the law is that you cannot travel, people shouldn’t be travelling for leisure purposes, holidays and that sort of thing, domestically or internationally.”

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