Concerned at 'authoritarian' illiberal government
Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw will be voting against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act when it comes before parliament on Thursday.
The act was brought in at the start of pandemic, giving the government wide-ranging powers from shutting down pubs through to detaining individuals. It has to be approved every six months.
The national lockdowns are implemented under separate legislation, the 1984 Public Health Act.
Mr Bradshaw said that while he supported the lockdowns a year ago and last autumn, and that both should have come sooner, he will not give the government a blank cheque to continue with such unprecedented powers.
He said: “I have increasing concerns about the way government has been using its emergency powers: the way the peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard was broken up, and the new Crime Bill, which provides more protection for statues than it does for women.
“This feels like a government using the covid crisis to pursue a highly illiberal, even authoritarian agenda, with measures that have nothing to do with public health.
“I fully backed the lockdowns a year ago and last autumn. Both should have come sooner. But I’ve lost trust in this government not to abuse the unprecedented powers parliament has given it. Given the success of the vaccines and, with 21 June supposed to be 'freedom day', the government does not need six more months of these emergency powers and will not get my support in seeking them.”
He added that a large part of public compliance has been based on the fact that it was temporary, for the greater good and that there was light at the end of the tunnel, but the warnings that the very gradual re-opening outlined in the Government’s roadmap might be derailed because of a “third wave” in some European countries may lead to people questioning and not so readily complying with the restrictions.
“It’s the vaccines that give us hope,” he said. “They have proved extremely effective in preventing serious disease and death. In Israel, which is two months ahead of us in its vaccine programme, life has returned to pretty much normal and hospitalisations and deaths have continued to fall.
“If the same thing happens here and hospitalisations and deaths peter out, I don’t believe people will tolerate draconian restrictions on their freedoms stretching well into a second year.
“After all, weren’t the vaccines supposed to be our route out of lockdown and into a world where we live with Covid19, as we do the annual flu virus, tweaking the vaccines to deal with new variants?”