Society cannot be run with the aim of stopping hospitals from being full, Jacob Rees-Mogg said as he called for "proportionality" in government restrictions to stop the spread of Covid.
Mr Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the Commons, used his "Moggcast" to suggest that people who are not in the most vulnerable nine categories are unlikely to be at risk from the Indian or delta variant of the virus and that it would be "odd" to keep restrictions in place until all over-18s have had two vaccines.
His comments appear to put him at odds with Boris Johnson, who said on Monday said delaying stage four of the unlocking roadmap until July 19 would save lives and prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.
"Ultimately the NHS is there to serve the British people, not the British people there to serve the NHS," Mr Rees-Mogg told Conservative Home.
"And therefore we may need to spend more money on hospitals, but you can’t run society purely to stop the hospitals being full otherwise you’d never let us get in our cars and drive anywhere, or do any of the other things that people want to do.
"So there has to be some proportionality within that – that the Government doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives purely to prevent them seeing the doctor.
"We’ve got to think about who is at risk, and if everybody in the top nine categories has had the double vaccination and has had two weeks afterwards, then people below those categories aren’t at particular risk."
It is understood the podcast was recorded before Boris Johnson announced that the end of lockdown would be delayed by four weeks, but Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments suggest division in the Cabinet over the continuation of the measures.
The decision to delay to July 19 is said to have been signed off by the "quad" of Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.