Government insists plans to close off M25 'were revealed weeks ago'

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·2-min read
The government has insisted Sadiq Khan should have known about its plans for a potential London lockdown two weeks ago. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, Pool/PA Images)
The government has insisted Sadiq Khan should have known about its plans for a potential London lockdown two weeks ago. (AP, Pool/PA)

Sadiq Khan should have known the government wanted to use the M25 as a quarantine barrier for London weeks ago, a “senior government source” has said.

The Times reported that Boris Johnson has war-gamed scenarios to keep the coronavirus’ spread under control if a second wave were to hit.

Among the concepts run through last week was the idea of implementing some form of lockdown for London, with the M25 used as the boundary, according to the report.

It could leave people inside the motorway under restrictions with the rest of England beyond it potentially under different rules.

Mayor of London Khan has said he was “surprised” at the news and warned the government about “riding roughshod over democratically-elected representatives”.

Sky News reported that a “senior government source” hit back at the mayor, saying: “We published details of new local lockdown powers two weeks ago with those details in.

“They were widely reported at the time and if the mayor of London had been paying attention he would have noticed.”

Boris Johnson did announce in mid-July that the government will be able to use localised “stay at home” orders.

Traffic on the M25 motorway near Egham, Surrey, after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people who cannot work from home should be "actively encouraged" to return to their jobs from Monday.
The government reportedly considered using the M25 as a local lockdown boundary for London. (PA Images)

He said ministers would also be able to stop people entering or leaving a defined area, reduce the maximum size of gatherings and implement restrictions on transport systems.

However, Khan said the first he heard of the M25 being used to seal off London was in the media.

A letter sent to Johnson from Khan and chair of London Councils, Peter John, said: “It is with great surprise that we read in the Sunday papers that government held a critical exercise last week in which a major resurgence in COVID-19 infections in London was a central scenario.

“According to media reports, the plans included using the M25 as a quarantine ring – effectively sealing off the city.

“Our surprise is that such far-reaching contingency plans have been discussed and tested without the involvement or awareness of London’s government.

“This is clearly totally unacceptable and an affront to London and Londoners.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the steps, set out as part of its “contain” strategy, were “not a new thing”.

“But, to be clear, it’s not something that is specific to London or anywhere else,” he added.