During the first Covid wave, the government secured emergency powers that allowed it to put in place new restrictions without parliamentary scrutiny. Those powers are up for renewal next week, but as James Forsyth writes in this week’s cover piece, a number of Tory MPs are unhappy about this. They are trying to force the government to put a parliamentary lock on any future restrictions.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, is leading the effort. Last night, he told Andrew Neil on Spectator TV that he believes he has enough to defeat the government if it come to a vote:
‘I think we have got the numbers. We tabled the amendment this afternoon for the rise of the House. The amendment has got, I think, something just over 45 names on it. Crucially, we have more than 40 Conservative MPs signing it, but also support from the other side of the House as well. We have Labour MPs and unionists among the signatories… We’ve actually an awful lot more who’ve indicated that they would support the amendment.’
This would be the government’s first parliamentary defeat in the Commons and it would be far from ideal to lose a vote so soon after an election, with a majority of 80. So the government is holding talks with the backbenchers to see if an agreement can be arrived at, without the need for the amendment. There’s no white smoke on that, just yet.
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