Old Compton Street in London

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Part of a London street is cleared of diners ahead of the 22:00 BST curfew

MPs will vote later on whether to extend emergency powers given to the government to tackle coronavirus.

Ministers say they need to be able to react quickly to contain outbreaks but dozens of Conservative MPs are demanding more parliamentary scrutiny of new restrictions.

Talks are continuing ahead of the vote in an attempt to reach a compromise and prevent any rebellion.

Tory MP Steve Baker said the government had reached “a fork in the road”.

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said no resolution had been reached between the government and the Tory rebels on Tuesday night.

But a further meeting between Mr Baker and Chief Whip Mark Spencer is due to take place on Wednesday, she added.

The Commons is to vote on whether to renew coronavirus legislation passed at the start of the pandemic in March, which gives the government sweeping powers to act.

The government is facing growing calls for more Parliamentary scrutiny of its Covid policies, amid concerns that recent interventions, such as the “rule of six” limit on social gatherings, the 10pm closing time for pubs and local restrictions in the North East, have been announced with little warning and without being considered by MPs.

‘Reasonable offer’

Local lockdowns and tighter restrictions have often been imposed at the request of local leaders but there are growing concerns on the Tory benches that the multiple restrictions are confusing and disproportionate.

Dozens of Tory MPs are backing an amendment by Sir Graham Brady calling future regulations affecting the whole of England only to be introduced if Parliament has the opportunity to debate and vote on them in advance.

However, it is thought unlikely that Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will select Sir Graham’s amendment for debate.

Asked whether the group of MPs he is part of could force the government to “back down” if the amendment was not chosen, Mr Baker told the BBC’s Today programme: “I don’t want to be in the business of forcing the government.

“But what I would say is this is a fork in the road. Either later today we will face a reasonable offer which we can accept, back down and gladly.”

“Or we will end up that these members of parliament are not going to go away and we will have to keep on battling on, as I say, with a fierce resolve to preserve the institutions which we are proud of and which we wish to defend in the public interest.”

What are the coronavirus powers?

The powers that ministers are using to respond to the pandemic are based on two Acts of Parliament.

The Coronavirus Act, an emergency piece of legislation fast-tracked through Parliament at the end of March, grants extensive powers to the authorities to tackle Covid.

It was used to close schools, postpone elections and stop mass gatherings. It also allows the authorities to forcibly quarantine anyone testing positive for the virus.

It is due to remain in force for two years, although there is a six-month review on Wednesday, when MPs will decide whether it should continue.

But most of the major interventions – including the national lockdown and the current local restrictions across England – are based on much-older legislation going back nearly 40 years.

The 1984 Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, passed by Parliament during the Thatcher era, gave her government and its successors very broad powers to deal with medical emergencies.

Successive measures to control the virus, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks in shops and the “rule of six” limit on gatherings, have been introduced through regulations linked to this law.

Regulations are legislative instruments which must be approved by Parliament but are often not debated.

They can subsequently be amended to authorise further restrictions although ministers are required to review the initial regulations every 28 days when Parliament is sitting.

The Health Protection Regulations 2020, which introduced the lockdown, came into force when Parliament was not sitting in late March and were retrospectively approved in early May.

In some cases during the pandemic, government policy has been based on voluntary guidance which, while it does not have legal force, has often been more restrictive.

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