Ministers have sought to head off a potentially damaging parliamentary defeat on coronavirus by dangling an offer of further scrutiny of the government’s actions in front of Conservative rebels.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, also announced he planned to meet the leader of the rebels, Sir Graham Brady – the chair of the powerful 1922 group of Tory MPs – on his own party’s benches.
But there was frustration among Tory MPs as bans on loud music, singing and dancing, imposed as part of new emergency coronavirus rules, came into force just hours before Mr Hancock took to his feet in the Commons.
The wide-ranging laws were revealed in legal documents and led to protests from Tory MPs that they had not been debated in parliament.
Mr Hancock told the Commons: “I strongly agree with the need for us in this House to have the appropriate level of scrutiny.
“We’ve already, as the prime minister set out last week, put in place further measures.
“The aim is to provide the House with the opportunity to scrutinise in advance through regular statements and debates, questioning the government’s scientific advisers more regularly, which has already started, gaining access to local data and having the daily calls with ministers including the Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt).”
He added: “We’re looking at further ways to ensure the House can be properly involved in the process in advance where possible.
“And I hope to provide the House with further details soon and I will take up the invitation to a further meeting with (Sir Graham), with whom I have already met to discuss this matter to see what further progress can be made and I hope that that, for the time being, satisfies my right honourable friend.”
In an angry speech the Tory MP for New Forest West, Sir Desmond Swayne, said recent measures taken by the government had left him wondering if the prime minister had been “abducted by Dr Strangelove”.
He added that a presentation by the chief medical officer and the chief scientist last week, warning of the spread of the disease, was “Project Fear” and should have been a “sacking offence”.