“Two Years Is Too Long” for “Draconian” Coronavirus Bill, Warn MPs & Rights Groups

Big Brother Watch Team / March 23, 2020

Parliamentarians and rights groups have today issued an urgent warning that the two year duration of the emergency Coronavirus Bill is too long, ahead of the Government’s attempt to push the Bill through the House of Commons this afternoon.

In a joint letter, led by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch and published in today’s Telegraph, the group warns that the Bill contains “the most draconian powers ever proposed in peace-time Britain” and urges for a more proportionate time limit.

Signatories include former Minister David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP, Joanna Cherry QC MP and Acting Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey MP, who are all backing an amendment to shorten the duration of the Bill to six months.

The Coronavirus Bill contains sweeping powers never seen before in the UK, including detention and isolation of anyone, including children, for forcible testing; powers to stop gatherings that could thwart protests; weakened safeguards against state surveillance; extended powers to detain and forcibly treat people under the Mental Health Act; slashed care duties to the elderly and disabled; and even enforced cremations overriding personal or religious wishes.

The signatories, including Amnesty International UK, Liberty, Netpol and the Adam Smith Institute, urge Parliament to give the Bill “utmost caution, closest scrutiny and the strictest time limitations”.

Read the full letter and signatories below:

Dear Sir,

We welcome the Government’s action to protect public health in this pandemic. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures, but we cannot let basic rights fall casualty to crisis.

The Coronavirus Bill contains the most draconian powers ever proposed in peace-time Britain. It contains sweeping powers to detain and test ‘potentially infectious’ members of the public, even children, in isolation facilities. It contains powers to shut down gatherings, which could thwart the possibility of protest against extreme measures. And it weakens safeguards on detention under the Mental Health Act at a time when people are under unprecedented psychological pressure. These powers require our utmost caution, closest scrutiny and the strictest time limitations. Two years without review is too long.

The nations of these islands face challenges best when we uphold our values, not abandon them. This crisis requires the public’s courage and co-operation.

We must be prepared to do what it takes to protect public health and save lives. But we must also protect the laws and liberties that are the foundation of our democracy, so that when this is over, we will be reunited with the freedoms that define us.

David Davis MP

Andrew Mitchell MP

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti

Diane Abbott MP

Joanna Cherry QC MP

Sir Ed Davey MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Stephen Farry MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Rachel Hopkins MP

Kate Osborne MP

Paula Barker MP

Beth Winter MP

Sam Tarry MP

Navendu Mishra MP

Grahame Morris MP

Aspana Begum MP

Kim Johnson MP

Claudia Webbe MP

Christine Jardine MP

Daisy Cooper MP

Alistair Carmichael MP

Wendy Chamberlain MP

Tim Farron MP

Wera Hobhouse MP

Layla Moran MP

Sarah Olney MP

Jamie Stone MP

Munira Wilson MP

Lord Newby

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames

Lord Paul Strasburger

Lord Thomas of Gresford

Lord Clement-Jones

Baroness Ludford

Martyn Day MP

Alyn Smith MP

Chris Stephens MP

Baroness Jenny Jones

Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK

Matt Kilcoyne, Adam Smith Institute

Martha Spurrier, Liberty

Kevin Blowe, Netpol

Signatories are available for interview. Please contact Big Brother Watch to enquire on 07730439257 / info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk