Something needs to be done to stop the spread of the pandemic. The government has an enormously difficult job on its hands and it needs to be able to take swift and decisive action. In the movable feast that is Covid-19 there is no doubt that mistakes will be made. Many will not like the government’s plans and in time they may be proved right or wrong but that is not the issue now.
Legislation needs to be in place to permit the government to take the necessary action and it is good that the Coronavirus Bill has come forward to parliament. I am certain that it will be passed and come into law.
We need to be careful however, that the legislation and powers it gives are commensurate with the issues we face. The law gives the government sweeping powers, for example:
- to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings during the pandemic in any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft, any movable structure and any offshore installation and, where necessary, to close premises.
- to postpone the local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections that were due to take place in England in May this year until May 2021. Provision will also be made to postpone other electoral events over the course of the year (such as by-elections)
It is always tempting for those in power to believe that they are the only ones that can solve the country’s problems and laws enacted in stringent times can be used for purposes not originally intended. Hopefully the government will have listened and reduced the period of review down from two years yet I would like to have seen the requirement for a super-majority vote.
Scrutiny of government and the law may seem an unnecessary indulgence at a time like this yet it is an even greater requirement. We may need to live with decisions made now for a very long time.