by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 21
April 2021

It’s time to unlock Parliament and pin-down government

Lockdown curtailed parliamentary scrutiny — we need to bring it back
by Peter Franklin
Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Is Covid just a conspiracy by politicians to grab more power? One of the problems with that theory is motive. Yes, politicians love power — but right up until the pandemic what they used it for was to build a global economy of hyper-mobile, hyperactive workers and consumers.  

Lockdown achieved the exact opposite of that. 

However, there is one aspect of lockdown that suits government very well — the curtailment of parliamentary scrutiny. A blogpost from the Constitution Unit at UCL points out that it’s been a year since the House of Commons returned from the Easter 2020 recess in much diminished form. 

Obviously, measures had to be taken to stop Covid spreading through our national legislature and executive. The fact that that the disease came alarmingly close to killing the Prime Minister himself was a demonstration of the severity of the threat.

Inevitably, the Commons has struggled to conduct its business in socially-distanced fashion. Forcing MPs to vote in person resulted in farcical situations like the ‘Mogg Conga’, a kilometre-long queue of Parliamentarians.  

But worse for democracy are practices like proxy voting. This is how Professor Meg Russell and her fellow Constitution Unit authors describe what’s still going on:

Few people outside Westminster realise that nearly all MPs are now voting by proxy rather than in person, with just a handful casting their own votes. On the last sitting day before Easter, 595 out of 650 MPs were certified as eligible for proxies. Those 595 votes were held by just 18 nominated people — primarily party whips. A single government whip was responsible for casting 329 votes and one opposition whip for 173.
- Prof Meg Russell, Constitution Unit

At a time when government is wielding extraordinary powers and spending extraordinary amounts of money, we need more Parliamentary scrutiny not less. Russell and her colleagues remind us that more than 400 Coronavirus-related statutory instruments have been laid before Parliament, an “unusually high share” of which became law without being scrutinised first.

In an emergency, a government has to move at speed — especially when faced with an enemy that multiplies exponentially. But now that the threat is subsiding, the restoration of normal parliamentary procedure — and, indeed, its improvement — is a key test of government good faith.

We need proof that our leaders haven’t got too attached to their emergency powers. Naturally, we’ll look for that reassurance in our lives first — in being allowed to do the things we took for granted before. 

However, as important as it is that restrictions on our freedom of movement are lifted, it’s equally important that they are reimposed on the government’s room for manoeuvre. 

Join the discussion

  • “Is Covid just a conspiracy by politicians to grab more power? One of the problems with that theory is motive. ”

    Motive is easy, there is a conspiracy by the ‘Global Elites’ to take over fully. As they (the Donor Class) fund most election campaigns (in USA totally) they own both parties. From rising as a youth to the House, Parliament, or Senate you must bend with the sources of money, selling bit of your soul at each step.

    At the top is a hazy, almost invisible, collective who let it be known which way things should go, and so on down. Soros we know, but most are not known.

    All government and industry works on Debt, this is economics 101. From Henry the VII, and every other government, this has been. Central banks make money and give it to the financiers who them loan it out, and loan it back to the Central Bank. In USA the Treasury Bond Market is all, for complex reasons, but debt is the main mechanism of gov and industry.

    Going back into the shadowy times till now there have been families who control the debt, the Rothschilds, say, and a couple hundred others, and they run the world by influencing the money at all levels.

    Now it is time to destroy the middle class as they have some ethics, education, money, and want a prosperous nation with stability. They have had the power in the West from the Glorious Revolution, now it is time they were broken as democracy will allow it by – what is happening.

  • Good luck trying to make government give their powers back. There will always be a new threat, a new variant, terrorism, etc

  • I’m not really sure what your point is. Many of the problems you outline above can only be blamed on the policies of successive governments. There is nothing that we can do about these problems, and if we tried to do something about them we would be locked up.
    The Russian and Chinese governments are indeed abhorrent but don’t think that Brussels, for instance, doesn’t see them as a model to emulate. Moreover, the Chinese and Russian governments are broadly competent, which cannot be said of many western governments.

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