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A dark day for democracy


A TOTAL of 484 MPs voted for the renewal of the Coronavirus Act for a further six months in the House of Commons yesterday. Only 76 voted against these unnecessary, excessive and dangerous powers.

Standing out against the majority who relinquished their democratic responsibilities and rubber-stamped the Government’s Covid measures were a small handful of MPs who deserve our praise.

Graham Stringer (Lab, Blackley and Broughton) criticised the Government for giving only ‘one side of the story’ on lockdowns, stressing the danger of Covid while ignoring the growing pressure caused by restrictive measures on the economy, the nation’s mental and physical health, and, of course, on our liberty.

Sir Charles Walker (Con, Broxbourne) predicted that these ‘emergency’ measures will continue beyond the further six months they have now been granted, saying: ‘As sure as eggs are eggs, we will be back here . . . at the end of September, being asked to renew this legislation again.’

Sir Desmond Swayne (Con, New Forest West) added that ‘tyranny is a habit and we haven’t quite kicked it’.

The most impressive of the few rebels was Sir Graham Brady (Con, Altrincham and Sale West), chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory back-benchers. He warned of the danger of the Government starting to believe that  ‘fundamental civil liberties belong to Ministers to grant to us or withhold’.

Watch Sir Graham’s full speech here:

Here is the full transcript:

‘I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, and delighted to follow the wise words of the Rt Hon Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael). I am the 31st Member to speak in this debate. I have been here throughout, and I think I am right in saying that only two Members have given their unqualified support to what the Government propose. The Government would be wise to reflect on that, considering the gap that is opening up between our rulers – the Executive and the Government – and those of us who represent the liberties of the British people. I am particularly pleased to be the fourth Greater Manchester Member to speak against what is being proposed, because we come from a city with a fine and long history of standing up for liberty, and I am glad that is continuing.

‘The danger in what is being proposed is that we risk normalising an extreme policy response. It was put in place during the emergency a year ago with very little thought or debate, and draconian powers were given to the Government, who initially expected a three-week lockdown, which then became a three-month lockdown. My constituents, like those of my Hon Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green), were released for three weeks, and then they were again put under heavy new restrictions.

‘I have asked before in this Chamber a question about whose rights we are dealing with. Do the Government have the right to tell people whether they can see their children or grandchildren, or whether they can start a relationship with someone? My answer is an emphatic “no”. Even those who are less certain should reflect on whether extreme control over people’s right to family life, intimate relationships, and freedom of association should be introduced just briefly by the Government in an emergency, or for more than a year.

‘On 6 January – the last time we had an opportunity to assert some control on the Government exercising these powers – the Prime Minister told me, when I intervened on him, that it would be very surprising if the House did not get a vote to get rid of any of these restrictions before the end of March. Well, okay, it is 25 March, so perhaps we should prepare to be surprised. I stand with Members in all parts of the House who have said we should expect that, if the Government are given these extreme powers and allowed them for longer, they will retain them and are likely to seek to extend them.

‘That is why the House should say no to extending the Coronavirus Act – it would have been in force for a year and a half at least.

‘The danger is that Government start to believe that these fundamental civil liberties belong to Ministers to grant to us or withhold. They do not – they belong, as of right, to British citizens. It is this habit of control that leads to coercive laws that have no sense. Government have, for example, a legitimate interest in people who entered the United Kingdom from high-risk countries, but there is no public health argument for fining people £5,000 for leaving the country, and the Government should think again about that. This habit of coercion and control has gone too far, and it has gone on for too long. It is time for this House to trust the British people and return their rights to them.’

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Michael Curzon
Michael Curzon
Michael Curzon is Sunday Editor at The Conservative Woman and Editor of Bournbrook Magazine.

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