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Fri, 23 October 2020

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MPs Will Be Given A Vote On New Lockdown Measures Before They Come Into Place After The Government Bowed To Pressure From Tory Rebels

MPs Will Be Given A Vote On New Lockdown Measures Before They Come Into Place After The Government Bowed To Pressure From Tory Rebels

Matt Hancock revealed MPs will get a vote on new national coronavirus restrictions before they come into force (Parliamentlive.TV)

4 min read

The government has bowed to pressure from Tory rebels and will offer MPs a vote on new national coronavirus measures before they come into place.

Health secretary Matt Hancock revealed a compromise had been found with backbenchers after they had attempted to amend the legislation giving ministers powers to impose restrictions.

He told the Commons the government had to move quickly to react to the challenges of the pandemic, but admitted that it has not always allowed for proper scrutiny.

After criticism from MPs across the House, Mr Hancock explained they were changing the approach of bringing in urgent measures.

“I'm very grateful to all colleagues who we've worked with us to come forward with a proposal that will allow us to make decisions and implement them fast, yet also ensure that they are scrutinised properly,” he said.

“Today I can confirm to the House that for significant national measures with effect in the whole of England or UK-wide we will consult parliament, 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.”

He explained: "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.

"And we will continue to involve the House in scrutinising our decisions in the way the Prime Minister set out last week, with regular statements and debates and the ability for members to question the Government's scientific advisers more regularly, gain access to data about their constituencies and join daily calls with the Paymaster General.

"And I hope the new arrangements will be welcomed on all sides of the House and I will continue to listen to colleagues' concerns, as I've tried my best to do so throughout."

In response Sir Graham Brady, who laid a rebel amendment to today’s motion renewing the government’s coronavirus powers, welcomed the announcement.

He said of Mr Hancock: “As he said, members on both sides of the House understand the importance of ministers having the freedom to act quickly when it's necessary.

"But we are grateful than he and other members of the Government have understood the importance of proper scrutiny in this place and the benefits that can bring to better government as well."

Mr Hancock said he agreed about scrutiny, adding: “And I'm very glad that we've been able to find a way to ensure that we can have that scrutiny and colleagues on all sides can have the opportunity to vote and we do so in a way though that still doesn't fetter the Government's need to act fast to keep people safe from this virus."

Another of the leading Conservative rebels, the former minister Steve Baker, also backed the compromise, telling the Commons: "I'm extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for what he's set out and the manner in which he's done it and I thank him very much indeed.

But former chief whip Mark Harper wanted Mr Hancock to go further and offer scrutiny on more local restrictions.

He said: ”Some of the measures that have come into force so far have been quite significant covering large parts of the country and millions of people.

"I accept there's a judgment to be made here, could he say a little more about where that line will be drawn on what's brought to this House in advance?"

In response the health secretary said the Government has made a "clear commitment" to allowing MPs more scrutiny, adding: "I hope over the weeks to come we will demonstrate through our actions and what we bring forward that we are true to this commitment, which essentially will become a new convention."

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