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Thu, 29 October 2020

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The Government Has Cut A Deal With Rebel Tories On Coronavirus Laws After The Speaker Accused Boris Johnson Of A “Total Disregard” For Scrutiny

The Government Has Cut A Deal With Rebel Tories On Coronavirus Laws After The Speaker Accused Boris Johnson Of A “Total Disregard” For Scrutiny

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle criticised the government for not allowing scrutiny of its coronavirus measures (PA)

3 min read

The government has agreed a deal with rebel Tory MPs to offer more scrutiny of coronavirus legislation after the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle unleashed a furious tirade at the way restrictions have been introduced.

PoliticsHome understands health secretary Matt Hancock will announce a compromise that allows for more votes in Parliament when new measures are introduced after widespread criticism.

Earlier Sir Lindsay said he would not select any amendments to this afternoon’s motion on extending the executive's powers as it “risks undermining the rule of law”.

In a statement to the chamber just before PMQs, he said “the way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory.”

Accusing ministers of regularly slipping out the details of measures “a matter of hours before they come into force”, he said the explanations for not allowing debate in Parliament on them was “unconvincing and shows a total disregard for the House”.

As Boris Johnson watched on, the Speaker said the use of “made affirmative statutory instruments” - which only allows MPs a vote to approve measures up to 40 days after they come into force - are a “particular concern”, hinting he will grant urgent questions or emergency debates in future to drag Cabinet ministers to the chamber to explain them.

But he said although he was sympathetic to an amendment to this afternoon’s motion on renewing the Coronavirus Act allowing MPs more scrutiny, tabled by senior Tory backbencher Sir Graham Brady, he said due to the way the legislation is drafted allowing the wording to be altered “risks giving rise to uncertainty about the decision the House has taken”.

He added that then risks decisions taken in Parliament “ultimately being determined by the courts”, which in turn “risks undermining the rule of law”.

The Speaker concluded by saying: “I have therefore decided not to select any of the amendments to the motion.

“As I hope my earlier comments show, I have not taken this decision lightly, and I am looking to the Government to remedy a situation I regard as completely unsatisfactory.

“I now look to the Government to rebuild trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that it has shown.”

In response to the decision one of the leaders of the rebellion, Tory MP Steve Baker, said: “Mr Speaker's decision is entirely reasonable and his statement will reassure all MPs supporting Sir Graham. 

“I hope and expect to reach a good compromise with the Government shortly so we can advance as one team.”

Earlier Sir Graham had said he was “hoping for a reasonable concession from the government”, when Mr Hancock opens the debate later this afternoon.

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