Coronavirus: Hackney MP criticises government for not being transparent with public

PUBLISHED: 10:02 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:03 13 October 2020

Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier in the House of Commons. Picture: PA Images

Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier in the House of Commons. Picture: PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

A Hackney MP criticised the government for “riding rough shod” over parliament and not being transparent with the public.

MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, chose to abstain from voting on whether to renew the 2020 Coronavirus Act last month.

She did so after an amendment, intended to increase parliamentary scrutiny over the Covid-19 measures, was not taken up due to “procedural” reasons.

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Ms Hillier said during her weekly roundup on twitter on October 2: “I do think it’s right that government should be able to make fast decisions in the middle of a pandemic to protect our public health but, this government has ridden rough shod over parliament, its not been transparent with the public and it needs a close eye kept on its actions.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA WireHealth Secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire

Ms Hillier, who also chairs the government’s Public Accounts Committee, was one of many Labour and Conservative MPs who had pushed for periodic review of the government’s emergency powers every six months, when the act was first passed through parliament on March 19.

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The act gives the government sweeping powers to impose restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19. MPs approved the motion by 330 votes to 24, a 306 majority.

Ms Hillier added: “I’ll continue to press them and harry government, making sure that it gives answers to us on things that restrict our liberties and have a huge impact on our health and livelihoods.”

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But Health and Social care secretary Matt Hancock said the act is still needed to keep people safe.

He told the House of Commons when the extension was passed on September 30: “I understand that these are extraordinary measures, but they remain temporary, time-limited and proportionate to the threat that we face.

“Some of the measures we seek not to renew; some have, thankfully, not been used, but it is imperative that we maintain the ability to use them if needed; and some of the measures have proved critical to our response and are now used to keep people safe every day.”

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Mr Hancock added that MPs will be consulted on “significant national measures” and get to vote on rule changes when possible but he said, responding to the virus means government “must act with speed” when required.

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, did not vote on the extension and has been contacted for comment.

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