30 September 2020 | UK NEWS
The Health Secretary announced in Parliament today that the Commons will be consulted before implementing “significant national measures” to control coronavirus.
This comes following a build-up of significant Tory backbench pressure for Parliament to have a say on new coronavirus legislation. This has been considered a concession by the Government to appease the Tory rebels.
The 1922 Committee Chairman, Sir Graham Brady, had tabled an amendment to a motion on whether or not Government should continue to hold the emergency powers it granted itself under the Coronavirus Act, passed in March, which would have enabled Parliament to debate new legislation.
The amendment garnered the support of over forty Conservative MPs, including several big names within the party. David Davis, Steve Baker, Sir Ian Duncan Smith and Sir John Redwood all signed a letter supporting the amendment.
They were joined by several influential members of the Labour Party. This included the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, John Cryer, Harriet Harman and John Spellar.
The Speaker of the House, Lindsay Hoyle, had said earlier in the day that the amendment would not be debated due to time constraints. However, this did not stop the Speaker from laying into the Government’s actions. He said: “The way in which the Government has exercised its power to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory.
“All too often, important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force and some explanations as to why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this house has been unconvincing and shows a total disregard for the House.”
He continued: “I am looking to the Government to remedy a situation I regard as completely unsatisfactory. I am now looking to the Government to rebuild the trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that it has shown.”
Later in the day, Matt Hancock announced that Parliament would be consulted where possible. He announced: “We will consult Parliament, and wherever possible, we will hold votes before such regulations come into force. But of course, responding to the virus means that the Government must act with speed when required.
“And we cannot hold up urgent regulations which are needed to control the virus and save lives. I am sure that no member of this House would want to limit the Government’s ability to take emergency action in the national interest, as we did in March.”
Some concerns have been raised, however, about what is meant by “wherever possible” and whether local legislation will be included in the discussions.
Backbench Tory MP Peter Bone said on Sky News: ‘It’s a question of whether you believe the Government will suddenly change tack and bring things before Parliament, let it be scrutinised, debated, amended and voted on.
“I didn’t hear anything today that persuaded me they would. The fact they only allowed 90 minutes for debate shows where they’re coming from. Backbenchers had very little time to debate and most backbenchers weren’t allowed to speak at all.”