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Government accused of hiding from scrutiny with longer October recess

Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament TV

Jacob Rees-Mogg has announced plans for a week-long Commons recess, raising concerns over how the government’s coronavirus measures can be properly scrutinised.

The extra-long break has been introduced because of fears over the spread of coronavirus, but prompted criticism from social media users who claimed the government was hiding from scrutiny.

It comes at a time when the government is facing increasing pressure – including from its own backbenchers – over the lack of parliamentary scrutiny of the measures it is using to counter Covid-19.

The House usually rises for a three-day recess in November but nothing had previously been announced for this year.

Rees Mogg told MPs: “Subject to the progress of business, the House will rise at the conclusion of business on Friday October 23 and return on Monday November 2.”

The announcement comes after a Tory backbench mutiny pushed the government for more timely scrutiny of restrictions.

Valerie Vaz, for Labour, pressed the government over when there would be opportunities to debate the coronavirus measures in the near future.

She said: “(Health secretary Matt Hancock) said that he was announcing a new convention, I’m not quite sure what that means because he said ‘for significant national measures, we will consult Parliament’.

“But I thought they had to do that anyway, consult parliament on anything that’s supposed to come into effect. And he said ‘wherever possible, we will hold a vote’.

“But there’s no guarantee of a vote and (Rees-Mogg) will know that the regulations on self-isolation came into effect seven hours after publication, including the £10,000 fine.

“But the media were briefed eight days before so there was plenty of time for a debate.”

Vaz added: “This so-called new convention only deals with national measures, not local measures, which is what right honourable members want to know because they want to know what’s going on in their constituencies.”

Rees-Mogg replied: “I do note that Labour didn’t actually partake in large numbers, I think a very small number of members voted yesterday and it is a bit worrying when we actually have a vote, the Official Opposition sits on its hands.

“And so they call for one thing and then they’re absent without leave.”

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