London: Rebel members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party are threatening to defeat the government and seize powers for Parliament to block new Covid rules.
At least 40 Tories have put their name to an amendment to a review of the Coronavirus Act that would give Parliament more of a say over new measures being brought in. That’s approaching the number of rebels that with opposition backing could defeat the government in a vote in the House of Commons.
The Commons is due to review the government’s coronavirus legislation on Sept. 30, six months after it was enacted. It gave ministers sweeping powers to bring in emergency measures to combat the pandemic, and members of Parliament are now seeking to limit the use of that authority, with libertarian Tories increasingly voicing concern about the stringency of restrictions put on the British public.
Earlier this week, Steve Baker, the Tory who tweeted the amendment on Thursday, asked Johnson in the chamber to “please consider whether some innovative thinking can be applied to make sure that the authority of this house is brought to bear on these measures in advance, so that the public can have confidence that their representatives are authorizing the use of law to constrain their freedom?”
Johnson gave a conciliatory reply, saying “there should be a proper debate of these issues in Parliament.”
If the amendment is passed, it would mean ministers could only implement major new measures to combat the pandemic once Parliament has been given the chance to “debate and vote upon” them. The amendment was posted on Twitter by one of its sponsors.
Its main sponsor is the influential Tory Graham Brady. Other signatories include Damian Green, who served as former Prime Minister Theresa May’s de facto deputy, as well as the opposition Labour Party’s former deputy leader, Harriet Harman.
While 40 Tory rebels are in theory enough to overturn Johnson’s 78-seat majority, the Parliamentary math is more complicated. After discounting Sinn Fein MPs and the non-voting speaker and deputies, the premier’s working majority is actually 85, meaning 43 rebels are needed to defeat him.
It’s possible some form of compromise will head off the rebellion before a vote. The wording of the amendment already contains an element of compromise: Parliament should be given a vote “as far as is reasonably practicable,” it says. –Bloomberg
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