Boris Johnson has been accused of asking for a “blank cheque” to restrict freedoms as the government prepares to extend emergency Covid powers until September.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey today told MPs today that the Prime Minister was “pushing a bill that will restrict one of our most fundamental freedoms” – the right to protest.
Legislation will be brought to the House of Commons tomorrow to extend police powers to ban protests, shut down ports and detain citizens for not following Covid rules until 25 September.
This is despite the government’s roadmap out of lockdown targeting 21 June as the date to remove most or all Covid restrictions in England.
The legislation is called the Coronavirus Act and dozens of lockdown-sceptic and libertarian Tory MPs are expected to rebel against the six-month extension.
Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that the Coronavirus Act has “some of the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history, giving the police and other officials the power to detain us, potentially indefinitely”.
Davey said at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that the government should ditch the extension.
“Tomorrow he is asking for another blank cheque to restrict everyone’s freedoms until September, even though we now know the vast bulk of the Coronavirus Act is not needed to tackle the pandemic,” Davey said.
“Will the Prime Minister for once match his actions to his words, drop these draconian laws and instead publish a roadmap to revive civil liberties and freedoms in our country?”
The Prime Minister said the laws were necessary so that parliament can deal with “the very considerable backlog we’ve faced because of the pandemic”.
“Making sure we have powers to accelerate court procedures with zoom courts, to make sure we allow volunteers to help volunteer in the NHS, retired staff to come back, powers that are necessary for education,” he said.
“It is important to continue with these special measures for the months ahead.”
It comes after 36 people were arrested on Saturday in an anti-lockdown protest in London.
Thousands of people joined the protests at Hyde Park, with some demonstrators turning to violence and hurling projectiles at police.