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Corbyn accuses Tories of bid to 'rig Parliament'

By Tom Rayner, Political Correspondent
Labour has said a Government plan to award itself majorities on key legislative committees amounts to an attempt to "rig parliament".
It comes amid ongoing controversy over powers contained in the EU Withdrawal Bill, which opposition parties have described as a "power grab".The latest proposals, tabled by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, look set to further fuel accusations the Government is undermining the democratic process as it battles to deliver Brexit.
Corbyn accuses Tories of bid to 'rig Parliament'

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Andrea Leadsom is behind the controversial plans
The motion put forward proposes changing parliamentary rules so that "where a committee has an odd number of members, the Government shall have a majority".This has major significance when it comes to the little-known but powerful Committee of Selection.This is the body which decides which MPs sit on the standing committees that scrutinise legislative bills after they have passed second reading in the House of Commons.Conventionally, the party political representation on the Committee of Selection reflects the results of the last election.
Corbyn accuses Tories of bid to 'rig Parliament'

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The Labour leader argues the Tory move is an attempt to 'grab power'
Given Theresa May failed to win an overall majority at the 8 June election, the anticipated make-up of this nine-member committee would be four Conservative MPs, four Labour MPs and one Scottish National Party MP.However, the motion put forward by Ms Leadsom would ensure five MPs on the Committee of Selection would be Conservatives.A government spokesman said: "These proposals create the fairest balance between the opposition and government, and will ensure technical, procedural rules do not cause unwarranted delays to the business of Parliament"The adjustments provide for maximum scrutiny with minimum disruption and delay, both to parliamentary proceedings and to the governance of the country."In a tweet, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the move was "an unprecedented attempt to rig parliament and grab power by a Conservative government with no majority and no mandate".MPs will vote on the committee proposals next Tuesday evening, while on Monday they will be asked to vote on the second reading of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
Corbyn accuses Tories of bid to 'rig Parliament'

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The draft legislation, unofficially known as the repeal bill, is currently being debated by MPs.The Government has faced criticism from the opposition and some within the Conservative party over clauses that would give Ministers sweeping powers to amend regulations as they are transposed from EU law into domestic law.
The administration says such powers are a practical necessity to ensure there is a functioning statute book once the UK leaves the EU, but critics argue it would mean changes would not receive sufficient parliamentary scrutiny.Labour's shadow Commons Leader Valerie Vaz told The Independent the combination of the proposals to change the make-up of committees and the repeal bill should worry voters."On Monday the Government are seeking the power to change the law by ministerial edict and on Tuesday they will try to sideline opposition in Parliament by rigging the committee system so that they are guaranteed a majority they didn't secure at the ballot box.
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"The British people will not understand how having voted to deny the Conservatives a majority, the Tories can alter the rules of Parliament to ensure they have one", she said.Mark Tami, Labour MP and a member of the Committee for Selection said: "The inconvenience of not winning the election has put them in a difficult position. Now they're trying to change that."Andrea Leadsom seems to be suggesting this is a minor issue, but it's minor at all - if you fix the Committee for Selection, you effectively fix the rest"."I would hope some Conservative constitutionalists might think this is a step too far, but they've been pretty quiet recently."It's worth them remembering that this might not only be used by the Executive against us in the opposition, but against their own backbenchers as well."Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is facing calls to punish any ministers or aides who have signed a leaked letter urging the Government to commit to a hard Brexit.
Corbyn accuses Tories of bid to 'rig Parliament'

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May pleads with MPs to back key Brexit Bill
Between 30 and 40 Conservative MPs are thought to have signed the letter, which was circulated on the WhatsApp group of the Conservative European Research Group (ERG).According to The Times, the letter calls on the Government to "respect the will of the British people" by making sure any transition deal does not prevent the UK leaving the single market, ending freedom of movement and negotiating bilateral trade deals immediately after leaving the EU in 2019.Some Tory backbenchers have reacted angrily to the letter, saying it is at odds with the Government's negotiating position, and that it is inappropriate for anyone holding ministerial rank or serving as a government aide to have signed it.The Times has reported that Brexit Minister Steve Baker made interventions on the WhatsApp group, but it is not clear whether he signed the letter.The chair of the ERG, Suella Fernandes, is currently an aide to Chancellor Philip Hammond, but when questioned about the letter she said she believed it was supportive of the Government.
news.sky.com
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