Campaigners call for ‘urgent modernisation’ of Parliament to ensure proper scrutiny of coronavirus powers bill

Posted on the 19th March 2020

  • For immediate release, Thursday 19th March 2020. Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru. Contact Josiah on [email protected] / 07717211630 for info/comment or bids

Democracy campaigners have called for ‘proper scrutiny’ of the government’s emergency coronavirus bill [1], with the bill set to be ‘nodded through’ without a vote over the coming days.

The ERS are urging all MPs and civil society to ‘not hold back’ in analysing the bill and its effects.

The Bill was drawn up with the involvement of opposition parties, but there has been concern from several groups – including Liberty [2] – that life-changing provisions affecting millions of people may dodge standard checks and balances.

The ERS are calling for MPs to be able to contribute to Parliamentary votes remotely [3], as numbers attending plummets due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Society are writing to the speakers of both Houses to call for swift action on modernising Parliament’s processes to cope with the understandable fall in numbers attending.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of Campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society, said:                                                                            

“These are pressing times, with life-changing legislation on the Parliamentary agenda – and understandably few parliamentarians around to scrutinise it.

“While it is welcome that parties have been working together, voters will want to know their MPs are looking at properly looking at any emergency powers and their ramifications.

“It is essential that backbenchers get the chance to hold this and all legislation up to proper scrutiny. Parliament has to modernise very rapidly – allowing MPs and peers to vote, debate and contribute remotely to the democratic process.

““Rather than carrying on as if nothing is happening, Parliament must act to protect members and staff. MPs must be able to debate this legislation remotely, or numbers will continue to collapse – handing the executive unprecedented power.

“The Parliamentary authorities must do things differently now, acting with speed to protect democratic debate while so many MPs and peers are unable to attend in person. The price of inaction could be very high indeed, both for democracy and for the safety of members and their staff, pressured to show up when it is no longer safe to do so.”

ENDS


Notes to Editors

[1] The Bill will be introduced to the Commons this afternoon https://www.gov.uk/government/news/emergency-bill-to-strengthen-coronavirus-covid-19-response-plans

[2] https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/press-releases-and-statements/coronavirus-bill-liberty-responds-drastic-reimagining-state

[3] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/introduce-remote-voting-for-mps-amid-coronavirus-crisis-say-campaigners/ 

The ERS are the UK’s leading pro-democracy campaign group, standing up for voters and a fairer political system.

The Society publishes high-profile research by experts, assessing the health of British democracy, and championing the need for proportional representation and constitutional reform. 


Read the ERS’ new report on the 2019 General Election: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/report-on-decembers-general-election-reveals-scale-of-tactical-voting-and-voters-systematically-ignored/


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Press releases: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/press-releases

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