'Treating us with contempt’: Speaker in stinging attack on Boris Johnson over coronavirus response

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read

Watch: Speaker in stinging attack on Boris Johnson over coronavirus response

  • Boris Johnson given extraordinary dressing-down by Commons Speaker

  • Sir Lindsay Hoyle says Johnson’s government treating Parliament with “contempt”

  • Downing Street has been criticised for introducing coronavirus rules without consulting MPs

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has launched a scathing attack on the government for treating Parliament with “contempt”.

In an extraordinary dressing-down of Boris Johnson before Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Hoyle criticised the government over its approach to coronavirus legislation.

He said: “The way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory.”

Hoyle said that “all too often”, new rules have been published hours before they come into force, and without having been laid out in the House of Commons.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle during his scathing attack on the government on Wednesday. (Parliamentlive.tv)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle during his scathing attack on the government on Wednesday. (Parliamentlive.tv)

The Speaker said the government’s “lack of clarity in such important matters risks undermining the rule of law”.

He added: “I am now looking to the government to rebuild the trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that it has shown.”

Johnson did not refer to Hoyle’s three-minute reprimand when he was called to speak for the beginning of PMQs.

The rebuke comes as Johnson has also faced growing anger from his own Conservative backbenchers over the government’s introduction of new rules without consulting Parliament. One Tory MP accused Downing Street of “authoritarianism” last week.

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Tory MPs have also criticised the laws themselves, such as the “rule of six”, which bans most social gatherings of more than six people – and was announced by Johnson at a Downing Street press conference. Leading backbencher Steve Baker described the restrictions as “madness” at the time.

Hoyle, meanwhile, said on Wednesday he would not select any amendments to a motion to renew the COVID-19 regulations, in order to avoid “uncertainty” and possible legal challenges.

In doing so, the Speaker actually spared Johnson a revolt. The PM had been facing a rebellion from more than 50 Conservative MPs.

They were set to back an amendment from Sir Graham Brady, the influential chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, that would have handed Johnson a defeat with opposition support.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as he leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on September 30, 2020 to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on Wednesday. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Brady later said he remained hopeful the government will make concessions on coronavirus powers.

In a statement, he said: “The Speaker set out his reasons for not selecting any amendments but he also made it clear that he expects the government to ensure proper and timely parliamentary scrutiny.

“I am hopeful that the government will respond appropriately this afternoon.”

Watch: People in England face £10,000 fines for not self-isolating

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