The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ready to face Tory members who have reportedly threatened to revolt against the government’s emergency COVID-19 rules next week. This comes as more than 40 MPs are prepared to support a move led by Sir Graham Brady to compel Commons vote on new coronavirus rules.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer may also lead his MPs to support the revolt against the government by Sir Graham considering that it may possibly wipe Boris Johnson’s 80-seat Commons majority. But sources close to Mr Johnson has insisted the government will definitely overcome the rebels and win the vote it needs to renew its policy.
“It doesn’t look like the rebels have really got the numbers to defeat the Government. There is a lot of noise about this but there are not that many MPs who are clear they will actually rebel when it comes to the vote,” a Cabinet minister said while adding that, “We need to keep the emergency powers to be able to respond quickly to this fast-moving pandemic.”
Sir Bernard Jenkin, Damian Green, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Sir Bob Neill and former Brexit secretary David Davis are among Tory MPs who have indicated support for the Sir Graham’s amendment by signing it. Others include DUP MPs and the chairman of the Labour parliamentary party John Cryer.
The number of MPs moving against notwithstanding, a spokesperson for Mr Johnson has hinted that Mr Johnson is not ready to compromise, he says, “We’ve been clear throughout that it’s rightful we can take action to stop the transmission of the virus and protect the NHS. Both houses have the opportunity to debate and scrutinise all lockdown regulations.”
However, it looks like support for the revisit of the regulation has continued to increase as senior backbenchers Tom Tugendhat, Huw Merriman and David Jones also pledged support for the restructuring of the rules.
Tom Tugendhat who is the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “You can give various blanket permissions in emergency ways but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to come and ask for permission as soon as is practical.
“It’s quite clear that there are at least another six months of it as the Government has announced and it may indeed be longer than that depending on whether a vaccine comes or not, so the idea that we can have a permanent state where the Government is making emergency decisions for people and effectively controlling the lives of 65 million people by fiat is not sustainable.”
Meanwhile, former Tory Scottish secretary Lord Forsyth of Drumlean told the House of Lords that, “These powers are being exercised by regulations which are being made using the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act.
“This gives the Government the power to restrict the movements of people who are believed to be infectious and to close infected premises only. As far as I can see, it does not provide for the control of people who are not infected or to close uncontaminated premises.
“Now if the Government wants to exercise controls of this kind over people who are not infected, it has the power to do so using the Civil Contingencies Act. But quite properly that legislation requires the consent of Parliament if obtained within seven days of any regulation and is renewed every 30 days.
“Has the Government used the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act improperly in order to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and created today’s farce where we are debating regulations that were made seven weeks ago which are already superseded?”
Speaking for the government, health minister Lord Bethell said, “The Civil Contingencies Act is expressly concerned with threats that we could not have expected and unfortunately we’re at a stage with this epidemic, and even at the very beginning of this epidemic, where the lawyers judged that this kind of regulation does not fit under this regulation and that is why we work through the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act.”
Questioning the government’s “whack-a-mole” approach, Tory peer Baroness Altmann said, “What is the endgame? Will we continue to lock people down, rejoice at reducing infections, relax draconian restrictions, allow people to see their friends and loved ones again without risking arrest, I can hardly believe I’m saying this, and then what?
“The virus has not disappeared. Does this whack-a-mole strategy just start again? Parliament should be able to judge the data. What is the risk to the life of a COVID infection relative to the risk to the life of missed cancer treatments, mental breakdown, stroke, heart failure, all of which lockdown worsens?”
In defending Mr Johnson further Lord Bethell added, “We recognise the effect of the impact of these regulations, but it is the virus that is the cause of this, it is not the Government’s fault that we have to bring in these regulations to slow down the spread of the virus.”