The House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to revise the local autonomy law to give the central government power to issue necessary instructions to local governments in emergencies.

The bill was approved by a majority vote with support from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, as well as opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai.

The revision is aimed at enabling swift responses for ensuring citizens' safety in situations not covered by existing laws for natural disasters and infectious diseases.

Confusion among central and local authorities over coordinating hospitalizations and sharing information during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the central government to write the revision bill.

It includes a rule enabling the central government to exercise instruction rights in cases in which citizens' safety is seriously affected but there are no laws with provisions on handling such a situation.

Instructions from the central government would be considered exceptional measures, based on the principle that the state and local governments are on an equal footing.

Procedures including a Cabinet decision would be needed to issue such instructions, and the central government would be required to make efforts to collect opinions from local governments in advance. The scope of the instructions would be limited to "the extent necessary."

The bill was amended, based on the proposal of the LDP, Komeito and Nippon Ishin, to oblige the central government to report to parliament after issuing an instruction.

The Lower House's internal affairs committee adopted a supplementary resolution urging that instructions be "the minimum necessary," and that local government opinions and actual conditions be considered.