Tory MPs Back Rebel Bid to Grant Parliament Final Scrutiny of COVID-19 Restrictions
Earlier, senior Tory MPs were reported to be eyeing legislation that would prevent Boris Johnson from pursuing future COVID-19 restrictions in the UK without parliament having the final say.
At least 42 Conservative MPs are said to have expressed support for an amendment tabled by the 1922 Committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady, to force UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to put all future coronavirus lockdown measures to a vote of parliament, writes The Telegraph.
The amendment requires Downing Street to grant Parliament a vote on any coronavirus powers affecting all of England or the UK “as far as is practicable”.
The Tory backbenchers are believed to have thus aligned themselves with a swelling number of rebel forces to demand a Parliament vote “as soon as reasonably practicable” on the new powers that would allow MPs scrutiny of COVID-19 restrictions before they are given the go-ahead.
Among Tory MPs backing the measure are said to be 1922 officers Sir Graham Brady, Sir Charles Walker, Bob Blackman, Pauline Latham, Karl McCartney, Dame Cheryl Gillan and Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
The amendment has also reportedly been signed by former ministers such as David Davis, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Sir John Redwood, Damian Green, Tim Loughton and David Jones, as well as Sir Bernard Jenkin and Sir Bob Neill.
The suggested list of supporters also features John Cryer, the chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Harriet Harman, a former acting Labour leader, as well as senior MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party.
According to the outlet, MPs anticipate that the amendment might be put to a vote next Wednesday when the Government, by law, asks Parliament to approve its powers, as it does every six months.
The growing backing for the amendment was hailed by the 1922 Committee chairman.
“I am delighted the amendment has been tabled with such strong support from both sides of the House of Commons. I hope this will help to persuade Mr. Speaker that this issue of such importance to the House of Commons that the amendment should be accepted on Wednesday,” Sir Graham Brady was quoted by the publication as saying.
An ex-Brexit minister who helped organise the amendment, Steve Baker, was quoted as saying:
“This shows just how necessary it is for the Government to offer a compromise to deliver Parliament votes before we have future infringement of people’s liberty.”
David Davis underscored that it would be wise for the Government to give the “rebels” what they “are after”.
“It is a very unwise Conservative government that lets rebellion led by any chairman of the 1922 Committee go the distance,” said Davis.
The current move by Tory backbenchers is seen as a sign of growing support for the rebels, who are currently just one MP short of overturning the Government’s working majority of 85, writes the outlet, emphasising that this takes into account Sinn Fein MPs who do not vote, the Speaker and the deputy Speaker.
There is, however, no certainty that the amendment will be chosen by Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, as on Wednesday the vote is on a statutory motion, with the rebels hoping that it will be adopted by the Government.
‘Parliamentary Lock’ on Restrictions
Earlier, The Telegraph had reported that senior Tories were gearing up to take measures that would prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from imposing pandemic-related limits on people’s freedoms without scrutiny by ensuring that Parliament be granted the final say on new lockdown measures.
As the MPs were set to vote on “the renewal of temporary provisions” of lockdown measures under the Coronavirus Act 2020, Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs, had been reported as hoping to use the opportunity to amend the legislation, so as to effectively impose a “Parliamentary lock” on any future restrictions.
“In March, Parliament gave the Government sweeping emergency powers at a time when Parliament was about to go into recess and there was realistic concern that NHS care capacity might be overwhelmed by Covid-19. We now know that the NHS coped well with the challenge of the virus and Parliament has been sitting largely since April. There is now no justification for ministers ruling by emergency powers without reference to normal democratic processes,” Sir Graham Brady was cited as saying.
In the wake of the developments, a Number 10 spokesman was cited by the outlet as saying:
“We understand MPs and their constituents will be concerned about coronavirus – that is why we continue to work closely with MPs to ensure they are able to hold the Government to account.”
New COVID-19 Restrictions
As the UK has been witnessing a resurgence in cases of the coronavirus disease, with infection rates rising in late August to top averages recorded since early May, the government introduced new coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.
“I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March. We’re not issuing a general instruction to stay at home. We will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open because nothing is more important than the education, health and well-being of our young people”, said Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister added that schools will be open and restaurants will switch to table service only. All staff in retail and taxis should wear masks, with businesses fined for violations. In England, a 10:00 p.m. closing time for pubs and restaurants has been introduced.
Citizens were also told to return to working from home if possible, in order to contain a likely second COVID-19 wave.
There is no fixed end time for the measures, which, according to Johnson, could last up to six months.