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  • Writer's pictureGlenville Gogerly

The Coronavirus Act Sunset Clause And The Role Of Parliament.

We have now been in "lockdown" since March 23rd and as we enter our sixth week on Wednesday I wanted to look at the role that parliament now has as MP's return into a virtual parliament.

I would first like to look at the timetable of events and how they have unfolded, the next steps that the government needs to take.

Let's look at the timetable of the passage of the legislation and, most importantly, the key dates .

Source: Institute For Government Paper. Author Raphael Hogarth.

1/ On the 10th of February regulations giving the government the power to restrict those who were potentially infected with Covid-19 came into force.

2/ On the 21st of March pubs, cafes and restaurants were forced to close under the new regulations.

3/ On the 25th of March the Coronavirus Act was granted Royal Assent. *{1}

4/ On the 26th of March the "lockdown" coronavirus regulations were enacted in England , Scotland and Wales.

5/ Between the 15th and 18th of April we saw the first three weekly review of the regulations.

The next few dates are important as we move into May.

1/ On the 11th of May the Northern Ireland Assembly approval of the "lockdown" regulations.

2/ On the 18th of May the House of Commons approval of English "lockdown" regulations.*{2}

3/ On the 24th of May the Secretary of State should have to give the regular two monthly report on the key provisions of the Coronavirus Act to parliament.

4/ The 24th of July the Secretary of State should have to give the regular two monthly report on the key provisions of the Coronavirus Act to parliament.

5/ The 30th of September is the expiry of the main provisions of the Coronavirus ( Scotland) Act.

6/ During September and October this year MP's are to vote on whether to keep the provisions of the Coronavirus Act in force.* {3}.

7/ The 24th of March 2022 is the expiry date of the main provisions of the Coronavirus Act, unless extended.*{4}

You will see that I have highlighted four key dates and I will discuss these in order:

*{1} This is a very important date and one that could cause problems for the government with a legal challenge. Many of the "lockdown" regulations were introduced before the Coronavirus Act received Royal assent. These were made under the Public Health ( Control of Disease) ACT 1984 as amended. These were made by Ministers and were made by secondary legislation and thus can be challenged in court. The coronavirus Act is primary legislation passed by parliament and cannot be challenged in the courts.

*{2} This date maybe of some surprise to many but the House of Commons must approve the regulations for England contained within the Coronavirus Act by this date. This was due to the Easter recess and obviously the government wanted to be seen to be follow it's own advice.

*{3} This is probably one of the most important dates to keep in mind. At the end of the summer and into early autumn we must lobby the government to seriously consider ending these restrictions to our liberty. I will point out later certain parts of the country are showing many fewer cases but are still having to abide by the stringent regulations.

*[4] This is the vital date and what I believe is the possible sunset clause and the expiry date of the main provisions of the Coronavirus Act. I say possible as they can be extended.

My question to government Ministers is why has this date been set so far in the future. Does this mean that the government are planning to hold on to many parts of these regulations, as was done after the second world war with many of the regulations then? These regulations need to be lifted in a timely and swift manner to protect the already shattered economy and I believe they should be done in a measured way so areas that are not showing high numbers of infections and deaths are the first to have the regulations lifted.

Below is a table showing the number of coronavirus cases in the UK regions dated 26/04/2020.

Source : GOV.UK

As you can see the number of people who have the disease is much higher in some areas and in areas such as the South West, the North East and the East Midlands we see far less cases. My personal view is that if these areas continue to see lower rates of infection then the government needs to look at lifting or easing these restrictions sooner rather than later.

I strongly believe that the governments sunset clause on this legislation is far too long. The people of the country and the economy need to be released, otherwise we are in danger of losing both our individual freedoms and the economic freedoms this country was built on back in the 19th Century.

A Different Way of Government After The Storm.

Over the years my frustrations with the present way our country is governed made me reflect and look to find a political home that mirrored my principles and beliefs and I found that home in The Libertarian Party UK. From our shared values of personal freedom to minimal government with a low tax policy base and a completely fresh way of governing.

We believe in the creation of The Confederation of Free States of Britain which will have a written constitution that makes individual sovereign and not parliament and based on the Swiss style of government. Follow the link to read and download our manifesto.

I believe that were we, as a nation governed within the Confederation that we would be in a different situation than we find ourselves today, in and around how the countries States ( devolved regions) managed the "lockdown". Wessex State, which would cover all of the South West would have been able to decide within the State legislator to lift the regulations early if deemed safe to do so.

The way that the NHS is funded would be completely overhauled and our health policy details can be found in the manifesto. The covid-19 pandemic has shown me that the NHS Doctors and Nurses are very committed and worthy of praise, as are all other key workers but the NHS as an organisation is a monstrous money guzzling machine that needs addressing. We have seen the enormous problems with the procurement of PPE which has now needed the help of the military. This pandemic has shown that the NHS and the government were woefully underprepared even though this scenario was played out in Exercise Cygnus in 2016 and showed then that in a pandemic situation the NHS would collapse.

There are many other questions that I would like to ask government Ministers and one that is very much at the forefront is where did this coronavirus originate?

My personal belief is that it originated in the virology laboratory based in the city of Wuhan. I and my colleagues will be lobbying the government to press the Chinese government to give us all information, as it has been alleged that they held back important information at the outset that could of saved lives.

I want to see a concrete economic strategy that will be market led and not weighed down by insane tax hikes that will curb investment and growth.

The other main thought that is at the forefront of my mind is that the sunset clause on the Coronavirus Act is set too far into the future and needs urgent review once we have passed the peak of infection. The government needs to have a strategic exit route and I believe, as I have already mentioned that the lowest rate areas of infection need to come out of "lock down" first to reinstate our freedoms and so give our economy the kiss of life before it is too late.

I know that our liberty and freedoms are the most important issues that will be fought and argued for by me and my colleagues in the Libertarian Party but also all those across the world who believe in these Libertarian principles that so many people hold dear. This must be done through hard work on the ground to let people know that it is okay to stand up for Liberty and Freedom.

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