Chair of influential Tory backbench group claims government is using the pandemic to ‘rule by decree’
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Graham Brady, who runs the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said ministers could face backlash from their own MPs if they do not put new coronavirus restrictions to a vote in parliament.
Appearing on BBC4’s Today programme, Brady said ministers had “got into the habit of ruling by decree”.
“The British people are not used to being treated like children. We expect to have in this country, a parliamentary democracy where elected representatives, on our behalf, can require proper answers to these sort of things.”
Brady is tabling an amendment requiring the government to put any mew measures before parliament for a vote.
He argued added scrutiny would have enabled MPs to explain why the ‘rule of six’ had not been bumped up to eight or ten and why children were included in England but not in Wales or Scotland and what plans the government had to tackle the virus.
“The government has got into the habit of ruling by decree in respect to the coronavirus issue without the usual debate and discussion and votes in parliament that we would expect on any other matter,” the Brexit-supporting MP said.
“It’s a very important and very serious situation. Something that obviously government needs some powers to act.
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“Arguably, the government already has the powers under the contingencies act but that would entail very frequent and close parliamentary review and scrutiny.
“What I’m proposing is we make sure that the powers that are exercised under the public health act or the coronavirus act are subject to parliamentary scrutiny and approved for.”
Former president of the Supreme Court, Lady Brenda Hale, said the parliament had “surrendered” its role over the emergency coronavirus laws.
The legislation, voted through the Commons back in April, allowed ministers to impose restrictions without need to consult parliament. This has infuriated a range of MPs, not least the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, who has lambasted the health secretary for announcing new measures to the media ahead of parliament.
The government is now trying to extend those emergency powers for another six months and will put a vote to MPs this week.
Defending the legislation, transport secretary Grant Shapps said we are living in “extraordinary times” that required the government to “act extraordinarily quickly”.
Speaking on the same show, Shapps said: “All of that is reported back to parliament, all of that is under scrutiny in parliament.
“I think it is done by and large with the consent of the British people and most people understand that the pressing nature of this as the reason we have to be able to act pretty quickly.”
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