A Conservative MP has warned Theresa May is leading the country towards “tyranny” with her decision to ignore a vote in parliament.
Edward Leigh told the Commons on Thursday the prime minister had set a dangerous precedent.
On Wednesday evening Labour won a vote in the Commons which called for called for the roll out of Universal Credit to be paused.
Jeremy Corbyn’s victory was achieved after Tory MPs were ordered to abstain en masse.
The result of the so-called Opposition Day vote is not binding on ministers. However it is highly unusual for the government to order its MPs to stay away.
“The road to tyranny is paved by executives ignoring parliaments,” Leigh told MPs today.
“It may be in the future there is a minority Labour government. They may produce policies which we think are deeply contrary to our personal liberties.
“We may muster a majority in parliament against it. What happens then if a future Labour government says: ‘I’m sorry, you set the precedent, this is only an expressions of opinion, we are going to ignore parliament’.”
The MP for Gainsborough added: “Parliament does matter. If we as Conservatives live by the sword now, our Conservative values may die by the sword.”
Fellow Tory backbencher Peter Bone also warned the government: “We can not ignore the will of the House”.
Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, denied the government was at fault and said ministers would be responding to the vote.
“There is no precedent being set here,” she said. “This government is very clearly listening to parliament and has very clearly taken action as a result of concerns raised in this House.”
The government yesterday relented to pressure from backbench Tory MPs and Labour and moved to make the helpline for Universal Credit free to call.
However it has so far resisted demands that the benefit shake-up be paused due to operational failures.
Commons Speaker John Bercow yesterday chastised the government for its decision to miss the vote.
“This institution is bigger than any one party, and, frankly, it is bigger than any one Government. This place, and what we do here, matter very much. We very much depend in this House, this institution, this great place, on conventions, precedent and a sense of respect for the will of the House,” he said.
Another Tory MP told HuffPost UK: “We are so pathetic now, so incapacitated, so inadequate that we can’t even vote against an Opposition Day motion on a central plank of Government policy like continuing the roll out of Universal Credit.”