Lib Dems lead call for Covid-19 Committee to ensure scrutiny from all parties
By Mark Pack
Representatives from five of the nine parties represented in the House of Commons have joined the Liberal Democrats in calling for steps be taken to guarantee "smaller parties are heard during this time of crisis."
Citing the need for a "plurality of voices" to ensure robust scrutiny of the Government's handling of the crisis, representatives from the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Green Party, Alliance and SDLP are calling for the creation of a Coronavirus Select Committee, to include representatives from every political party represented in the House of Commons. The new Select Committee would be a "central point for holding the government to account" for its handling of COVID-19.
In a letter to the Leader of the House, coordinated by the Liberal Democrats, the MPs also call for several changes to procedures of the new 'hybrid' parliament, including:
- An extension of hybrid scrutiny proceedings from two to three hours, allowing a larger number of MPs to put questions to Government Ministers.
- Longer deadlines for submitting or 'tabling' of Parliamentary questions and Early Day Motions.
- Guarantees that discussion of future business through the hybrid Parliament will include representatives from every party.
Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office Spokesperson and author of the cross-party letter, said:
MPs have a duty to represent our constituents from the moment we are elected. This duty is felt even more keenly in the face of the current crisis, which is taking a terrible toll on lives, livelihoods and freedoms.
It is therefore a real relief that we've been able to use technology to get Parliament back to business, in virtual form. However, the current systems risks excluding the voices of MPs from smaller parties, at a time when a plurality of voices is essential.
That is why we are calling on the Government to set up a Coronavirus Select Committee, made up of representatives from every single Parliamentary Party. This is the only way to guarantee smaller parties from across the political spectrum the opportunity to scrutinise and ask questions of Ministers at this critical time.
The full text of the letter to the Leader of the House can be found here.