Boris Johnson faces Commons revolt over emergency coronavirus laws

Government hopes to fast-track sweeping powers through parliament within days

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Saturday 21 March 2020 18:39 GMT
Coronavirus: Who should stay home and for how long?

Cross-party MPs will mount a Commons revolt over emergency coronavirus legislation that would hand sweeping powers to the government for two years.

Former Tory cabinet ministers David Davis and Andrew Mitchell have signed a cross-party amendment to curb the emergency powers for the government after 12 months.

The move presents a headache for Boris Johnson, who is hoping to fast-track the legislation through parliament within days without a vote.

But the sweeping powers in the bill have caused disquiet amongst MPs.

The legislation includes powers for police to detain people with coronavirus and for care providers to lower their standards to prioritise resources.

Mr Davis, a long-standing campaigner on civil liberties, backed the amendment put down by Labour’s Harriet Harman, which puts a “sunset” clause on the legislation after a year.

The Liberal Democrats have also put forward an amendment requiring MPs to renew the emergency powers after three months, as well as a bid to compel the PM to seek an extension to the Brexit transition period.

Ed Davey, the party’s acting leader, told The Independent: “New emergency powers are absolutely necessary to deal with this crisis, but Liberal Democrats do not believe handing over such far-reaching powers to Boris Johnson unchecked is in the public’s interest.

“Liberal Democrats are therefore seeking cross-party support for our proposal to limit the new powers to three months, after which they would have to be renewed by a vote of the country’s democratically elected MPs.”

He said extending the Brexit transition period would allow the government to focus on the coronavirus outbreak and end uncertainty for businesses and citizens.

Labour MP Chris Bryant has also sought to amend the bill to allow MPs a vote on the legislation every two months, which has cross-party support.

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