politics explained

Why MPs are worried about Boris Johnson’s emergency coronavirus powers

There are concerns in the Commons that measures being brought in to tackle Covid-19 could last for two years, writes John Rentoul

Wednesday 18 March 2020 19:43 GMT
Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday
Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday (PA)

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP, said on Wednesday: “I can tell you now, this is the greatest emergency we’ve faced for many years, but I’m not voting for draconian emergency measures that last two years unless they require regular renewal by parliament.”

He is worried about the coronavirus bill that is expected to be published on Thursday and considered by the House of Commons on Monday. According to the government’s guide to the bill, it will give police and immigration officials sweeping powers to arrest people suspected of carrying the infection – powers that could last for two years.

The bill contains many less controversial measures, such as changing the rules on sick pay, allowing retired public service workers to return to help fight the virus, and simplifying the rules on reporting and managing deaths.

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