The government has come under fire from Tory MPs for unveiling plans to extend emergency Covid enforcement powers in England for another six months.
Legislation will be brought to the House of Commons by Boris Johnson on Thursday 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”.
Tory MP Steve Baker, who will also vote against the extension, told Sky News: “It is obviously a very uncomfortable position for some of us to be in when it’s our own party and that’s why we are trying to do it in a civilised way, asking reasonable questions, but the government will get its way and at this stage I wouldn’t like to say how big any rebellion will be.
“Of course, the plan out of these restrictions is a path to freedom, it’s just that unfortunately we believe, many of us believe, that it squanders the advantages of our great vaccination programme.
“It’s difficult to see how very many people will want to vote against a path to freedom but we’ll need to look at exactly the detail, but the Coronavirus Act itself, I am expecting to vote squarely against, I think it’s excessive and disproportionate and the government itself now isn’t using its powers and where the police gain powers in the Act, as I’ve said, it’s 100 per cent unlawful prosecution rate.”
It comes after 36 people were arrested yesterday 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.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News that “now is the time to throw away” the UK’s hard work through the pandemic.
“Parliament can put in place powers and it can always remove powers,” he said.
“I think what we want to indicate to the public at large is a plan that goes beyond a week by week, a sort of long-term plan and that involves putting certain tools in place.”