A prominent civil liberties group has drafted new coronavirus legislation to counter what it describes as the ‘dangerous’ Coronavirus Act that is due to be voted on by MPs next month.
Liberty said its Coronavirus (Rights and Support) Bill ‘rejects the draconian approach that government adopted at the outset of the pandemic, and instead prioritises support and public health, so everyone is protected for the remainder of the pandemic’.
Areas covered by the 80-page bill - which was drafted in consultation with several charities and campaign groups, and checked by barristers - include police powers, the so-called ‘hostile environment', social care provision, workers’ rights protections and housing support.
On access to justice, the bill requires ministers to publish an impact assessment on video audio proceedings every month. They must publish separate assessments for criminal, civil and family proceedings.
Liberty director Gracie Bradley said: ‘The pandemic has shown how much we rely on each other – yet politicians in charge responded to this pandemic with a strategy that created distrust and favoured punishing people instead of providing support. Those in power have failed to understand that to get through coronavirus, we need to pull together and create strategies that protect everyone. A year into this crisis, we’re tired of waiting for alternatives, so we’ve come up with one ourselves.
'The Coronavirus Act created the biggest threat to civil liberties in a generation, and its renewal last year was the act of a parliament doubling down on the wrong approach.'
The Coronavirus Act will be debated in parliament next month. Liberty is urging MPs to reject it so they can embark on a new Covid exit strategy.
Bradley said: ‘If ministers vote through this failed approach again, they are doing so knowing more of the most marginalised people will be left behind, and everyone’s freedoms will be on the line, due to people in power refusing to learn from their mistakes. We demand a better way forward - one that provides support for everyone and upholds our rights and freedoms.’