Speaker Hoyle has blocked a Tory rebellion by not selecting amendments to the coronavirus legislation this afternoon but delivered a strong rebuke in accusing the government of showing “contempt” to the House of Commons.
Backbench Conservative MPs were set to defy ministers by voting in favour of the Brady amendment, which would have forced the government to allow parliamentary votes on future coronavirus-related restrictions.
But Lindsay Hoyle did not select amendments to the motion being considered this afternoon as the vote does not create new legislation and only gives a “binary choice” on continuing to enforce existing provisions in the Coronavirus Act.
The Speaker took the opportunity, however, to criticise the “totally unsatisfactory” way in which the government has exercised its powers during the Covid-19 crisis and urge ministers to “rebuild trust” with MPs.
In a statement delivered before PMQs, the Commons Speaker told MPs: “The way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory.
“All too often, important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force, and some explanations why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this House have been unconvincing and shows a total disregard for the House.
“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. The use of made affirmative statutory instruments under the urgency procedure gives rise to particular concern.
“I will give very sympathetic consideration to applications for urgent questions or emergency debates in such cases, requiring ministers to come to the despatch box to justify the use of such powers.
“I hope that all hon. Members will have a chance to express their views through substantive, amendable motions, on the scrutiny of delegated powers or on the operation of the Coronavirus Act 2020 or both.
“But I turn now to the motion to be considered later today, which invites the House to make a narrow, binary choice as to whether the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 should or should not yet expire.
“Unfortunately, as it is only a 90 minute debate as a proceeding under an Act (under SO16) I am disappointed that I cannot give additional time to discuss the issues and I know some Members will be disappointed.
“When I became Speaker, I made it clear that I would take decisions on matters relating to procedure guided by professional advice. I have concluded, on the basis of the advice that I have received, that any amendment to the motion before the House risks giving rise to uncertainty about the decision the House has taken.
“This then risks decisions which are rightly the responsibility of Parliament ultimately being determined by the courts. Lack of clarity in such important matters risks undermining the rule of law.
“I have therefore decided not to select any of the amendments to the motion. As I hope my earlier comments show, I have not taken this decision lightly, and I am looking to the government to remedy a situation I regard as completely unsatisfactory.
“I now look to the government to rebuild trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that it has shown.”
“I look to the government to rebuild the trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt it has shown”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 30, 2020