POLITICS
21/09/2020 09:54 BST

Senior Tory Accuses Boris Johnson Of Treating Public Like 'Like Children' With Lockdown Rules

Graham Brady accused the prime minister of "ruling by decree" in his use of coronavirus emergency powers.

Boris Johnson has been accused by a senior Tory of treating the British people like children through the use of coronavirus emergency powers.

The criticism from Graham Brady, chair of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, came as a retired senior judge accused parliament of surrendering control to the government over the “draconian” measures.

Baroness Hale, former president of the Supreme Court, called for the return of a “properly functioning constitution as soon as we possibly can”.

Brady’s intervention could signal trouble for the prime minister ahead of a vote on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act on September 30.

He said ministers had “got into the habit of ruling by decree”, adding: “The British people are not used to being treated like children.”

Brady is tabling an amendment which would require the government to put any new measures to a vote of MPs.

He said more scrutiny of the so-called rule of six would have enabled MPs to question why the limit was put at six and not eight or 10 and why children were included in England and not in Wales or Scotland.

He questioned whether the lockdown strategy had worked, pointing to the situation in Sweden, where such restrictions were not used.

And he denied that greater scrutiny would prevent ministers from acting swiftly to deal with the pandemic.

“Governments find it entirely possible to put things to parliament very quickly when they choose to do so,” Brady told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Lady Hale, in an essay seen by The Guardian, suggested parliament had allowed the government to act without proper scrutiny.

The Coronavirus Act 2020, passed in March, gave the government “sweeping” powers alongside other “draconian” regulations, and “it is not surprising the police were as confused as the public as to what was law and what was not”, she wrote.

She said that parliament has now resumed much of its work “but it did surrender control to the government at a crucial time”.

“Maybe the lockdown and its severe consequences … were inevitable or at least the best solution that could be devised in the circumstances,” she said.

“My plea is that we get back to a properly functioning constitution as soon as we possibly can.”

Baroness Hale also referred to the row over Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings’ decision to drive from London to County Durham to self-isolate with his family.

“Others might have also felt that they had a reasonable excuse for doing something like he did,” she continued. “But they did not do it, either because they did not know the law and just abided by what they were told or because they felt they were not safe.

“Hence the outcry that there was one law for those in power and another law for the rest of us. There isn’t. But that’s how it felt to many.”

Meanwhile, senior Tory Bernard Jenkin, chair of the liaison committee, called for the prime minister to “take back control of his government from publicity-obsessed and unaccountable advisers, who seem able to instruct everyone else in the government as to what they can and cannot say and do”.

In a column in The Daily Telegraph, he suggested that the armed forces should play a greater role in helping the coronavirus response, highlighting the failures in the NHS Test and Trace system run by Tory peer Baroness Harding.

He wrote: “The question for the prime minister is this: will he allow things to carry on as they are, with under-qualified appointees scrambling in their posts?

“There are still large wells of public goodwill to draw upon, but without serious, targeted action and competent delivery, we will enter the winter looking as if we have learned little from the crisis so far.”