MPs will now be consulted over coronavirus laws

Elias Hubbard
October 1, 2020

MPs WILL be able to vote on any national coronavirus lockdown measures before they come into force, Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised today in a bid to ward off a Tory revolt.

But he warned that some urgent regulations could not be held up.

But there is little lawmakers can do about the government's response because of the powers that Parliament granted the government six months ago in the Coronavirus Act.

New measures for England came into force on Monday including a ban on mass singing in pubs, £1,000 fines for falsely reporting that someone must quarantine, and a £4,000 first-time fine for those deemed "reckless" for coming into contact with large numbers of people when they should be self-isolating, for example by going to an office.

"The government must make greater efforts to prepare measures more quickly, so that this House can debate and decide upon the most significant measures at the earliest possible point", he added.

On Tuesday The Conservative Home website published a list of the Tory rebels, along with 13 opposition MPs who have signed Sir Graham Brady's amendment to the Coronavirus Act passed in March.

Asked by a former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper for clarity on which new rules MPs would be allowed to vote on, Mr Hancock said "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".

Tory backbenchers who are increasingly frustrated at restrictions brought in with minimal notice have piled on the pressure before crunch talks to avert a rebellion over coronavirus laws. Sir Charles Walker said the 90 minutes provided for the debate was "just not good enough" while Sir Bernard Jenkin warned that "the prime minister can not lead his parliamentary party unless he has their consent".

"If the evidence requires it, we will not hesitate to take further measures that would, I'm afraid, be more costly than the ones we put into effect now", Johnson said. It would dictate that any new restrictions must first be approved by MPs, giving them a vote on on any future curbs on people's freedoms.

Sir Graham praised Mr Hancock for being "prepared to listen" regarding the importance of parliamentary scrutiny.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle did not select the amendment explaining that any amendment to the motion risked creating uncertainty about the legality of the Act, and potentially opened it up to court challenge.

However he told MPs: "The way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory". She said that the government should no longer "treat it with the contempt that it has shown".

"I know that some people will think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that would potentially entail", Johnson said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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