Jeremy Corbyn has warned that Theresa May wants to “give herself” the mandate denied her by the voters in the general election - with sweeping new powers to put Tory MPs in charge of key Commons committees.
Ahead of a crunch vote on Tuesday night, the Labour leader launched a fresh attack on the plans to create a Conservative majority on all public bill committees, the “engine rooms” of all law-making in Parliament.
Even though the Tories lost their overall majority after the “Corbyn surge” in June, and can only rule with support from the DUP, May wants to pass a motion granting her party a clear majority even without the Northern Ireland party.
Critics slammed the proposal last week when the controversial motion, which would give effectively a minority government five-years of control of the Commons over Brexit and all other legislation, was first revealed by HuffPost UK.
Now Corbyn has opened up a fresh front against the Government, declaring that if the proposal is accepted it would effectively tear up the results of the 2017 general election.
“The Tories are trying to give themselves majorities in parliament that the voters wouldn’t give them at the general election,” he said.
“Theresa May lost her mandate and her authority in June, now she wants to fix it by the back door. While Tory ministers grab powers through the EU bill, they are sidelining scrutiny and undermining democracy.”
HuffPost has learned that Government whips are so worried about defeat that they are trying to delay the vote into the early hours of Wednesday.
Tory MPs have been told to book hotel rooms and insiders suggest backbenchers will filibuster the preceding Finance Bill - which has no time limit - to put back the standing committee vote until well past midnight, and possibly 3am.
On Tuesday morning, some 35 Tory MPs put their names down to speak on the Finance Bill’s Second Reading. If each strings out their speech, the debate will last way beyond the 7pm vote orginally expected.
In line with Commons standing orders, Finance Bills have no time limit, effectively pushing back all other business until their stages are completed.
Corbyn is expected to ram home his warning in his setpiece speech at the TUC conference in Brighton on Tuesday, ahead of the knife-edge vote later in the Commons.
May is already under fire over plans to use the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which got its Second Reading on Monday night, to give ministers sweeping powers beyond the scrutiny of MPs and peers.
The vote on the Government motion is expected to be close, with all Opposition parties set to unite against it.
The motion, tabled by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, states that Commons rules will be changed so that “where a committee has an odd number of members, the Government shall have a majority”.
And “where a committee has an even number of members, the number of Government and Opposition members shall be equal, but this instruction shall not apply to the nomination of any public bill committee [which hammers out the guts of legislation]”.
Downing Street says the plan would avoid “unwarranted delays” to legislation and claimed it would create “the fairest balance between the Opposition and Government”.
Tories also cite the precedent of the minority Labour government in the late 1970s, which continued to hang onto power thanks to similar moves to control so-called standing committees and the Committee of Selection, that chooses which MPs sit on various bodies.
Without a majority, ministers fear that all of their Commons business risks grinding to a halt or being gridlocked by Labour amendments.
But Labour counters that the Callaghan government at least started with a majority, though it lost it through by-elections.
And it says the move would tear up a long-standing convention that Commons committee strictly reflect the proportion of the parties in a general election result.
A key part of the row is the composition of the powerful but little known Committee of Selection chooses, which MPs go on select committees that scrutinise policy and ministers, and standing committees that govern legislation.
The Leadsom motion sets the Committee up with nine members, but specifies that there will be five Tory members.
This is despite Commons officials allocating four members each for Labour and Conservatives and one SNP member - in line with the June election result.