The health secretary said ministers were “looking at further ways” of ensuring the Commons can be “properly involved” in decisions on restrictions.
Dozens of Tory MPs, led by powerful chair of the backbench 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady, are prepared to rebel in a vote on Wednesday to ensure new restrictions are subject to Commons votes before being introduced.
They have argued that the government is ruling “by decree” through emergency powers enshrined in the Coronavirus Act.
And some questioned whether the government was “overreacting” to the virus and what they see as overly pessimistic scientific advice, with Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne questioning whether Boris Johnson “hasn’t been abducted by Dr Strangelove and reprogrammed by the Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) over to the dark side.”
On Monday, Hancock signalled the government was ready to make fresh concessions but stressed that it still needs to be able to impose new regulations “at pace”.
But he was warned that anything less than an MPs’ veto would not be enough to stave off a rebellion.
"The aim is to provide the House with the opportunity to scrutinise in advance"— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 28, 2020
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he's "looking at further ways to ensure the House can be properly involved" as some Tory MPs seek to have a say on changes to lockdown ruleshttps://t.co/HuWthT0BGl pic.twitter.com/DKzt8txelm
Asked by veteran Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh to ensure parliament is “fully involved” in the imposition of more national restrictions, Hancock replied: “I strongly agree with the need for us in this House to have the appropriate levels of scrutiny.”
He went on: “We are 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 (Brady), with whom I have already met to discuss this matter to see what further progress can be made.”
Hancock said the government has already given MPs more chance to scrutinise restrictions through regular debates and statements, more briefings with scientific advisers, getting more access to local data, and calls with ministers including paymaster general Penny Mordaunt.
He also revealed he had faced seven urgent questions, made 12 statements, and taken 800 interventions in the Commons since the start of the pandemic.
But former chief whip Mark Harper stressed that MPs must be given a vote on restrictions rather than just the chance to question ministers or advisers, arguing it would lead to better decisions.
He pointed out that regulations were published on Sunday night amounting to 12 pages of detailed laws, some of which were “not mentioned” in statements made by the government next week.
“That’s why we need to scrutinise the details of legislation before it comes into force and give our assent to it – not, I’m afraid, just to allow him to do so by decree,” he said.
Hancock replied: “Sometimes in this pandemic we have to move fast, sometimes we have had to move fast and we may need to again.
“The challenge we have in this House is how to ensure proper scrutiny whilst also being able where necessary to move fast in response to the virus.
“That is the challenge collectively we all face.”
Several other senior Tory MPs backed the rebels’ demands, including former cabinet minister Chris Grayling, Commons foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat, and former minister Steve Baker.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.