Easington MP Grahame Morris attacked the government for side-lining parliament in the effort to scrutinise Ministers handling of the crisis.
In the House of Commons, the government gave MPs 90 minutes to discuss public health and covid restrictions in the North of England, the North East and the North West. Due to the number of Northern MPs wanting to speak in the debate backbench contributions were limited to 150 seconds.
In a Point of Order to the House of Commons Speaker, Mr Morris said:
“the Leader of the House said that it is the duty of MPs to be here and hold the Executive to account. I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to the 90-minute public health debate that took place yesterday, covering restrictions in the regions of the north-east, the north-west and the north of England. Back-Bench Members had 150 seconds to hold the Government to account.”
Mr Morris highlighted the disparity between MPs and government Ministers:
“The Government have endless time at the Dispatch Box and in the media, but MPs had 150 seconds. Mr Speaker, may I refer to your statement of 30 September before Prime Minister’s questions? In your opinion, does the Government’s handling and the opportunities they are giving to Back-Bench Members square with your advice on 30 September?”
On 30 September, Lindsay Hoyle MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, chastised the government before Prime Minister’s Questions saying:
“The way in which the Government have exercised their 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, and some explanations why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this House have been unconvincing; this shows a total disregard for the House.
The Government must make greater efforts to prepare measures more quickly, so that this House can debate and decide upon the most significant measures at the earliest possible point. The use of made affirmative statutory instruments under the urgency procedure gives rise to particular concern. I will give very sympathetic consideration to applications for urgent questions or emergency debates in such cases, requiring Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box to justify the use of such powers.”
Responding to Mr Morris’ Point of Order on Thursday 8 October, the Speaker said:
“The 90-minute limit for debate to which he refers is governed by Standing Order No. 16. However, it would be within the Government’s gift to vary the time limit by a separate business of the House motion. That would be a matter for them, not for me, but I do have sympathy, given how many constituencies were affected. I recognise that if we did have more time, it would allow Members to give their views and opinions to help the Government to be more informed. I hope that that will have been taken on board.”
Easington MP Grahame Morris speaking following his Point of Order said:
“The Easington Constituency is facing huge public health, social and economic challenges caused by government incompetence and mishandling of the Covid crisis.
The leisure and tourism businesses, the pubs, clubs and restaurants who contact me, families with loved ones in care homes, care home managers concerned about staff and residents, people struggling to receive covid tests and worried about their jobs and children at school are entitled to expect their concerns to be raised in parliament.
How the government expects the views and concerns of people from across the UK to be represented in 150 seconds is beyond me. MPs can make written representations, but government departments are delaying responses and providing little more than unhelpful generic information. The answers to Parliamentary Questions are evasive and vague.
The government have made countless mistakes, trying to rule without oversight and scrutiny. This has led to poor decision making, causing untold damage, and government by u-turn. If the government had the humility to accept oversight and scrutiny, they would realise that parliament wants to be part of the collective endeavour to combat covid and safeguard our economy. If they took more time to listen, many of the mistakes they have made could have been avoided, and we would now be in a better position both in terms of public health and the economy.”