Speaker Lindsay Hoyle accuses UK Government of having 'contempt' for Parliament

The UK Government was today blasted for its "totally unsatisfactory" behaviour over the introduction of new coronavirus laws in an astonishing intervention from the Speaker.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 1:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 5:43 pm
Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the House of Commons after becoming the new Speaker. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the House of Commons after becoming the new Speaker. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Sir Lindsay Hoyle accused the Prime Minister of treating the House of Commons with “contempt” for bringing forth Covid-19 emergency regulations without any scrutiny.

The Speaker made his comments just hours before MPs will vote on renewing the powers in the six-month-old Coronavirus Act, which allows ministers to impose controls as they see fit.

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He said: “The way in which the Government has exercised its power 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 as to why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this house has been unconvincing and shows a total disregard for the House.

“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.”

Ministers have insisted they need to introduce new emergency laws quickly and cannot afford to wait for a vote in the House of Commons.

Speaking directly to the Prime Minister, Sir Lindsay dismissed this excuse and demanded the PM work to "rebuild trust" with Parliament.

His furious intervention came in a speech that also saw him block a rebel amendment from backbench Tory MPs that aimed at defeating the Government over coronavirus laws.

Around 50 MPs signed an amendment by Sir Graham Brady, chair of the influential Tory backbench 1922 committee, which demanded a vote on any new coronavirus restrictions.

Tory rebels are said to be furious over what they see as threats to liberty in the safety measures.

Sir Lindsay said he had not selected any amendments to avoid "undermining the rule of law".

He said: “When I became Speaker I made it clear that I would take decisions on matters relating to procedures guided by professional advice.

“I have concluded on the basis of advice that I 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 that are rightly the responsibility of Parliament ultimately being determined by the courts.”

The MPs had held 11th-hour talks with Jacob Rees-Mogg last night to try and find a compromise.

One of the rebels, Tory MP Steve Baker, said Sir Lindsay had made an “entirely reasonable” decision.

He said: “I hope and expect to reach a good compromise with the government shortly so we can advance as one team.”

The dressing down came in a heated Prime Minister’s Question session that saw the PM once again complaining that Sir Keir Starmer was asking him questions, labelling it “sniping from the sidelines”.

Sir Keir responded: “The idea that anyone asking the Prime Minister a question is undermining the measures is wearing a bit thin.”

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