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Johnson gives Parliament veto over longer England lockdown

[LONDON] Boris Johnson promised Parliament a vote on restrictions after England's partial coronavirus lockdown expires in December, as the prime minister sought to reassure members of his own Conservative Party planning to rebel against his latest four-week crackdown.

Mr Johnson warned the House of Commons the number of deaths could be twice as high as the first wave in the spring if proposed national action isn't taken to slow the spread of the pandemic. Pubs, gyms and non-essential shops will close for four weeks from Thursday under the plan, which is subject to parliamentary approval.

"It is clear we must do more together," Mr Johnson said. "I am truly sorry for the anguish these measures will cause, particularly for businesses which have just got back on their feet."

Some Tories have warned they may abstain or vote against the government when the new lockdown is debated in Parliament on Wednesday. That leaves Johnson at risk of sacrificing precious political capital - especially if he has to rely on opposition Labour Party votes to win.

The government has been working to diffuse tensions, with Mr Johnson talking to MPs over the weekend. Early Monday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told the BBC he expects the lockdown to reduce infections enough to resume the localised strategy of tackling virus hot spots after the new regulations lapse by law on Dec 2.

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Mr Johnson's spokesman made clear that means MPs will get a vote on the "proposed way forward."

"Our expectation and firm hope - on the basis of everything we know today - is the measures we put in place, for the time that they are going to be in place for, will be sufficient to do the job that we need," Mr Sunak told BBC Radio.

Mr Johnson set out his plan in Parliament on Monday after a leak on Friday night rushed him into announcing the lockdown in a televised press conference on Saturday.

"Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level," Mr Johnson said. "I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier, but I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership."

The prime minister also gave details of extra assistance to self-employed people during the lockdown, raising state aid to 80 per cent of their usual profits for November, up from 40 per cent planned. The chancellor has already increased aid to the employed by extending his flagship wage support program, which had been due to end at the weekend, for the duration of the new restrictions.

The extension came too late for many people laid-off by companies last week, ahead of the program's scheduled end. Mr Sunak defended his decision to stick with his original time-frame, saying it was only the changing health data and subsequent lockdown that forced a rethink.

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