DRACONIAN emergency powers contained within the Coronavirus Bill were debated during the bill’s second reading in Parliament yesterday.
Police state measures were outlined to detain people ‘suspected of being infected with coronavirus,’ as well as the power to shut down premises and break up public gatherings by force.
Labour were keen to give the Tories their full support during the bill.
Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Essentially the Bill gives a legislative toolkit to take action where needed.
‘And while I hope that some of these powers will never have to be used, we will not hesitate to take action where needed.’
Tom Tugendhat, Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said: ‘Can he guarantee that these powers will only be used for the purpose for which they were created and that is to deal with the coronavirus crisis, because,’ he warned ‘these powers could be used in a malicious fashion.’
After giving such a ‘guarantee’, Hancock continued: ‘The Bill will suspend the powers which require two health care professionals to detain someone under the mental health act. That power will be changed from two health professionals to one to detain someone under the mental health act.
‘… Everyone has their part to play, self-isolating if you or anyone in your house has symptoms, working from home wherever possible, avoiding social gatherings and of course washing your hands.
‘And the Bill provides for us to go further. It gives us stronger powers to restrict or prohibit events and public gatherings and wherever necessary to shut down premises.
‘The Bill gives the police and border force the power to isolate a person who is or may be infectious.
‘This part of the Bill gives us the powers to close educational settings or child care providers, and to postpone elections which were due to take place in England in May this year, for one year.
‘These measures are not measures anyone would want to take but they are absolutely necessary in this crisis.’
Earlier, Hancock had heaped praise on his Labour opposite number, thanked him for his cooperation and announced that he had incorporated his suggestion that the powers are reviewed every six months.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth then put on record his thanks to the Tory health secretary ‘for his kind words and keeping me informed at every stage in the creation of this Bill’.
He then outlined his agreement with the draconian powers.
He said: ‘No member came in to this place to put powers like this onto the statute book – powers that curtail so many basic freedoms that our forebears fought so hard for and that so many take for granted.
‘But I also know that every member here will want to do all they can to support all means necessary to save lives and protect our communities.
‘We are asking people to radically change their behaviour and are on the cusp of forcing people to radically change their behaviour.’