Speaker's angry response to Govt's 'totally unacceptable' handling of Covid briefings

14 June 2021, 17:04 | Updated: 14 June 2021, 20:53

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has angrily criticised the Government's "totally unacceptable" manner of announcing changes to the Covid road map.

Sir Lindsay said Downing Street was "running roughshod" over MPs by not informing them first of any changes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to hold a press conference at 6pm on Monday, where he is expected to announce a four-week delay to the final lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England.

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He is expected to say the road map easing earmarked for June 21 will be delayed until July 19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will then make a statement to MPs at around 8.30pm.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday afternoon, Sir Lindsay said MPs were only going to receive a statement on Tuesday "until I got involved with Downing Street".

He added: "I understand the Prime Minister at the moment is on Nato, there is a big conference going on, he isn't here - that's why I insisted that somebody came to make this statement. The timing of it is 8.30pm. I thought that was better than waiting for the Prime Minister to make a statement tomorrow.

"This House needs to know, it needs to know first. I find it totally unacceptable that once again, once again, that we see Downing Street running roughshod over members of Parliament. We're not accepting it and I'm at the stage where I'm beginning to look for other avenues if they're not going to treat this House seriously.

"But I will say I think it's time for me to have a meeting with the Prime Minister to actually put on the record here now but with him that this House matters."

He was responding to points of order from two senior Conservative MPs, Peter Bone and Sir Edward Leigh, who both voiced their unhappiness with the handling of the announcement.

Mr Bone said to MPs: "It's a long-standing principle of this House that major changes to Government policy are announced to Parliament first.

"I can think of no more important policy announcement than changes to regulations that restrict the freedom of the British people."

He went on: "What makes this matter more concerning is that about 30 minutes ago the media were given an embargoed copy of the statement.

"So the media have the statement in advance, there will be a public press conference at 6pm and the last people to know about the changes to the Covid regulations will be members of Parliament.

"This is clearly very disrespectful to Parliament and probably a contempt of Parliament."