Today, the House of Commons will vote on whether to renew the remaining temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, required every six months under the terms of the Act.
In each renewal vote so far, no amendments have been accepted by the Speaker due to the wording of the motion.
The Coronavirus Act gave the Government sweeping powers to introduce measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic such as closing businesses, schools and restricting gatherings. The powers to do these things under the Coronavirus Act have now been removed by the Government.
These powers in the Coronavirus Act were not used by Government to implement lockdowns and restrictions. Overwhelmingly, significant restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19, including lockdowns, restrictions on social gatherings, the closing of businesses and mandatory mask wearing, have been implemented under the Public Health Act 1984.
That is why I have been campaigning for a new Public Health Act. You can learn about the proposals here:
You can find out more about the law used during the pandemic through the Hansard Society’s Coronavirus Dashboard:
The Act presented today seeks to renew some important provisions and powers. The Government would keep power to financially support businesses affected by COVID-19, including providing rebates to small businesses for COVID-19-related statutory sick pay without the waiting days ordinarily required. Landlords will continue to be unable to evict tenants of residential or commercial properties for unpaid rents – something which has its own consequences.
Two of the most egregious powers under the Coronavirus Act – Schedule 21 and Schedule 22 – have been removed by the Government. This ends powers for the prevention and restriction of gatherings and events, and powers to detain potentially infectious individuals. I am proud that our campaign seems to have contributed to removing the worst provisions of the Act.
The powers that remain in the Coronavirus Act seem unnecessary to me now but what remains is not particularly objectionable. That is why we do not intend to divide the House of Commons. If a vote occurs, I will not support the Act’s renewal and intend to abstain.