Good morning. Brexit was supposed to be about parliament “taking back control” but one of the extraordinary ironies of 2020 is that Britain’s departure from the European Union has coincided with the government implementing the most draconian restrictions on ordinary life seen in peacetime – mostly with MPs having no say over the process at all. The key lockdown measures have become law as regulations passed under emergency powers, Because of the way such secondary legislation is scrutinised, MPs have not had the chance to vote before the laws take effect, the few votes that have taken place have been retrospective (after the laws are already in place) and mostly the regulations have not been subject to votes or debates at all.
Now many MPs have had enough. There will be a debate tonight on extending the powers in the Coronavirus Act and many amendments have been tabled saying MPs should have a greater say. The most important has been tabled by Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, and it has got the support of dozens of Tories. It is likely that the amendments won’t be put to a vote for procedural reasons and ministers know that, if they don’t resolve this issue now, at some point soon the rebels will line up with the opposition to defeat them over this and so talks will take place this morning on a possible compromise.
In an interview on the Today programme this morning Steve Baker, the Tory former minister and a leading rebel on this issue, said that
What I’ve found by talking with colleagues on the back benches, and indeed colleagues on the front benches, is people are extremely concerned about parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, the basis of our freedoms and our prosperity in the course of this crisis. And I do mean ministers – I’ve been amazed at the broad smiles that I’ve had from ministers in the course of this campaign … There is widespread concern in parliament across parties and throughout the Conservative party that we are not standing up for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law and really that is what today is about.
Baker said 247 pieces of delegated legislation had been introduced to implement coronavirus restrictions. He said it was not being properly scrutinised, and members of the public could not keep up with it. “The rule of law is based on ideas like certainty, predictability, clarity and stability and I think we’ve seen that they are going out of the window with this virus,” he said. He went on:
When you get such a large and shifting body of law, you find even ministers and the prime minister cannot keep up with it.
What possible hope can the public have? I had one minister say to me yesterday, with terror in his eyes about the disease, we might have to change the law every 24 hours.
We can’t possibly expect 70m people to keep up with law that changes every 24 hours – this would be chaos and ruin.
We’ll hear a lot more on this as the day goes on. Here is the agenda.
9am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.
10.15am: Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, gives evidence to the work and pensions committee about coronavirus and benefits.
12pm: Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
12.15pm: The Scottish government is due to hold its daily coronavirus briefing.
12.30pm: Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, answers an urgent question on government support for professional and amateur sport.
2.30pm: Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, gives evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee about the impact of coronavirus on children’s education.
5pm: Johnson holds a press conference with Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, its chief scientific adviser.
Later, after 7pm, there will be the 90-minute debate on renewing the powers in the Coronavirus Act. The rebel amendment is not expected to be called, and it is possible that ministers and rebels may agree a compromise deal before the debate starts, but the debate will still give MPs a chance to speak out on this issue.
Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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