The government has controversially granted itself the power to ignore parliament when scrutinising Brexit laws.
A motion was passed by 320 votes to 301 on Tuesday night. The Conservatives will now have control over a group of key parliamentary committees which are responsible for examining proposed legislation in detail.
As The Independent reports, this means that the government can now grant themselves the power to replace some elements of EU legislation – without the replacements being voted on or even debated by a representative sample of MPs.
Parliament will have to change, amend or replace thousands of laws before the UK leaves the European Union. Many of these changes would originally have been debated by MPs from different political parties in committees known as ‘standing committees’, which are designed to reflect the political make-up of the House of Commons.
However, the government has now voted to give itself a majority on the Committee of Selection –which chooses which politicians get to appear on the standing committees in the first place. The Conservatives would not have ordinarily had a majority in these committees, as since the general election in June they no longer have a majority in the Commons.
In theory, this means that Prime Minister Theresa May will now be able to get Brexit legislation passed without fear of opposition.
Jeremy Corbyn said that the government had rigged the parliamentary system in its favour.
“The Tories are now rigging votes in parliament that they couldn’t win at the election,” said the Labour leader. “Not content with grabbing powers through the EU Bill, they are fixing majorities that the public wouldn’t give them.”
Pete Wishart, the Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for Perth and North Perthshire, told the BBC that the government’s actions represented an “incredible, totally undemocratic power grab from a government that does not command a majority in this House”.
But Andrea Leadsom, who brought the motion, said that the Tories had a “working majority” thanks to their arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). After June’s election resulted in a hung parliament, the DUP agreed to back up the Conservatives in Commons votes in exchange for extra money for Northern Ireland. As expected, the vote on Tuesday night was supported by the 10 DUP MPs in the Commons.
Leadsom, the Commons leader, said that the Conservatives had taken control of the public bill committees in order to speed up the process of amending or replacing EU laws.
The public “rightly has an expectation for government to deliver business through the House in a timely fashion,” she said.
Images: Rex Features