Conservative MP Steve Baker has accused the government of undermining the rule of law with its coronavirus legislation, warning that “liberty… dies like this, with government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance”.
The Coronavirus Act, which allows Prime Minister Boris Johnson to unilaterally make laws without parliamentary scrutiny, is due to be renewed in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Up to 60 Conservative Party MPs are reportedly preparing to defy the whips and vote for an amendment which would force Johnson’s government to debate and put to a vote any new coronavirus laws before they are put into effect.
Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady penned the amendment, and told The Observer on Saturday: “It is essential that the House of Commons should have the opportunity to debate and vote on emergency measures before they come into force.”
"Liberty…dies like this, with government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance," says @SteveBakerHW
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) September 27, 2020
Writing in The Telegraph on Saturday, Brexiteer MP Steve Baker said that he would be supporting Sir Graham’s amendment.
“Parliament must take back control,” Mr Baker said, continuing: “We need a system which meets the joint ambitions of the Government and Parliament for prompt and effective action, with few opportunities for mischief and yet prior parliamentary approval before liberties are taken away.
“It would help improve the law and public consent for it. It would be consistent with our constitutional norms and maintain the principle that delegated legislation is not amendable by Parliament.”
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, the MP for Wycombe criticised the rapidly changing coronavirus laws, which according to The Telegraph had changed 200 times in the past six months.
‘Fearful’ Two-Thirds of Britons Want Tougher Coronavirus Restrictions https://t.co/p3APc6vvEz
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 26, 2020
“We’re in an environment when you really can’t know whether you’re a criminal or not with this much law coming in and changing so fast. This is not a fit environment for a free people.”
“How do people think that liberty dies? It dies like this, with government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no one can understand.
“It’s extremely serious… this is a very serious moment,” Mr Baker said.
The MP explained the Brady amendment, saying “it’s all about MPs having a vote on the government’s policy before it comes into force and takes away people’s civil liberties.
“Members of Parliament are feeling increasingly helpless as their constituents complain about real impacts on their lives, their jobs, their prosperity, indeed their health, which comes as a side effect of COVID measures.”
Baker said that his colleagues were not proposing to take power from ministers or take away the business of the House of Commons, rather that “the government should use the procedure that puts a statutory instrument before the House for a debate and a decision.”