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Fri, 4 December 2020

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Boris Johnson faces Commons rebellion over coronavirus emergency powers bill

Boris Johnson faces Commons rebellion over coronavirus emergency powers bill
2 min read

Boris Johnson is facing a House of Commons rebellion over a bill giving the Government emergency powers to tackle the coronavirus.

The legislation, which will be rushed through Parliament next week, would give police the power to detain suspected carriers of the virus for a month, while also relaxing care standards so local authorities can prioritise resources.

Under the Government's plans, the new law would be on the statute book for two years, with ministers having the power to either shorten or lengthen that timetable by six months.

Ministers had hoped the bill would win cross-party support and be passed without a vote.

But former Tory Cabinet minister and civil liberties campaigner David Davis has tabled an amendment calling for the legislation to expire after a year.

He told The Times: "There is nobody who can scrutinise a 300-page bill in one day.

"The Government itself will have made mistakes, it’s a fact of life. We need an absolute, brick-wall stop on this legislation at 12 months."

Labour MP Chris Bryant has also said he will try to amend the bill so that MPs get a vote on it every 90 days.

Writing for The House Live, he said: "Nobody will balk at many of these measures – especially where the Government is bringing in support for families, individuals and businesses. But some of these powers are draconian and impinge on people’s liberty.

"Yes, they may be necessarily draconian and yes, the Government understandably wants to have every tool for tackling the virus to hand.

"But it’s a rule throughout history that governments – even good governments – are quick to take extra powers to themselves and slow to return them."

He added: "The powers in this bill that confer an additional benefit to people could stand for two years without explicit renewal, but any measure that restricts liberty should be subject to a renewal clause so that at the very least Parliament has a moment to consider whether they are still needed.

"I would prefer that to be every 30 days, but I accept there may be an argument for an initial period of 90 days followed by regular renewals every 30 days."

The bill was introduced to Parliament last week and MPs will begin their scrutiny of it on Monday.

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