ENTERTAINMENT

Tory MPs warn ministers not to restrict freedoms by decree.


Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden claimed today that Tory rebels' fears about ministers imposing coronavirus restrictions without asking MPs to vote on them first were "exaggerated".

The government will this week call on MPs to extend the coronavirus emergency powers for another six months.

However, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Conservative Backers' Committee, has tabled an amendment that would require a vote on new measures "as soon as possible".

Sir Graham is believed to now have the support of 60 of his Tory colleagues ahead of a possible crunch vote on Wednesday.

One of the supporters of the amendment, former Brexit Minister Steve Baker, argued today that "freedom dies" when governments are "allowed to exercise draconian powers without prior parliamentary scrutiny".

However, Mr Dowden defended the government's current approach of introducing rules without a parliamentary vote as he said Mr Baker's concerns were "slightly exaggerated".

The cabinet minister said the "rapidly changing" nature of the pandemic means the government must "retain the power to move quickly".

His comments came after it was alleged Boris Johnson was preparing to face the rebels. It is speculated that Commons spokesman Sir Lindsay Hoyle will decide that Sir Graham's amendment is "out of scope" and therefore cannot be voted on.

The Sunday Telegraph said Mr Johnson would urge Tory to ask the government to voluntarily vote on future rules if the amendment is not selected.

That would effectively only leave the Tory rebels the "nuclear" option of voting against the renewal of the coronavirus law to defend their position – something the vast majority of the 60 MPs do not want to do.

The controversy over Parliament's vote on the rules before they were introduced came when Labor polled the Tories for the first time since Mr Johnson took office as Prime Minister.

Sir Graham's amendment is designed to allow MPs to vote on any new coronavirus restrictions proposed by the government.

If it is chosen by Sir Lindsay and 60 Tory MPs, there is a real risk for Mr Johnson that his 85-seat working majority will be overturned – should opposition parties choose to back the move too.

The government must ask parliament to extend the powers contained in the coronavirus law for another six months on Wednesday and the rebels hope Sir Lindsay will grant them a vote on Sir Graham's amendment.

If the amendment is not selected and the government refuses to move, it would effectively result in the prime minister daring Conservative MPs to vote against the renewal of the law.

The vast majority of rebels are unlikely to be willing to go that far, as torpedoing the legislative renewal would cause massive damage to the government and limit ministers' ability to respond to the pandemic.

Mr Baker told Sky News today that the Tory rebels made a "very humble proposal" because he had raised serious concerns about the way rules are being put in place.

He said, “How do people think freedom is dying? It dies so when the government exercises draconian powers without prior parliamentary scrutiny and undermines the rule of law by having a changing set of rules that no one can understand. & # 39;

Mr Baker added: "In a sense, I am saying that in these circumstances, MPs should be part of the terrible burden of decision-making, and not just be asked retrospectively to approve what the government has done."

But Mr Dowden dismissed Mr Baker's concerns, telling Sky News, “I have a lot of respect for Steve Baker, I like him a lot, but I think that's a bit of an exaggeration.

“Actually, it is important that Parliament hold the government accountable. That is why we will, for example, have the first debate on the government term on Covid.

"Of course there will be a chance for MPs to debate new measures and vote on what we call legal instruments. It will vote on them, for example on the rule of six."

When asked if MPs should be able to vote on restrictions before they are imposed, Mr Dowden said, "I think in a crisis like this it is important that the government has the power to act quickly and that is the power that the government was given by the original legislation earlier this year.

“But then it is important that MEPs hold us accountable and vote on it, and that is what is happening here.

“I am very sure that these are very difficult decisions that we will make. We have a rapidly growing virus. We also have huge economic ramifications from the choices we make and we need to take steps to deal with them.

"It is absolutely right that the government ministers are properly scrutinized by Parliament as part of this process."

The rebels remain confident that an agreement can be reached with the government to give parliament more leverage on new restrictions.

Andrew Mitchell, former Chief Whip, said: "If the chairman of the 1922 committee leads such a rebellion, it would be an extremely negligent Prime Minister to ignore it."

The 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady has tabled an amendment requiring new rules to be voted on before they come into effect

The 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady has tabled an amendment requiring new rules to be voted on before they come into effect

Sir Graham told the Observer that "it is important that the House of Commons have the opportunity to debate and vote on emergency measures before they go into effect".

In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Baker had said: “Covid-19 remains a dangerous disease for those at risk, but it is now clear that the position is not as disastrous as feared.

"It is no longer appropriate to restrict our freedoms by a ministerial decree with only ex post parliamentary approval, often after the rules have been changed or repealed."

Mr Johnson is also facing pressure to tackle the coronavirus crisis from Tory donors, who last week resented his decision to impose new restrictions amid growing concerns about the economy.

One donor said the prime minister was "overly cautious" and that it would "cost us a hell of a lot economically," while another said the prospects for many companies were "super bleak," according to the Sunday Times.

A poll conducted by Opinium found that for the first time in this Parliament the Labor Party has a poll lead over the Tories.

Labor is now 42 percent of the vote, three points more than two weeks ago, and the Tories fell three points to 39 percent.