Julian votes against renewing government covid powers for 6 months
March 26, 2021
Last night, Julian voted against the government on its motion to extend emergency powers to impose restrictions under the Coronavirus Act for a further 6 months.
He did so on the basis that this period goes far beyond the end of the government’s roadmap for lifting all legal limits on social contact from 21st June, and long after all those at serious risk from covid have been covered by vaccination, and therefore represents an unnecessary prolonging of extraordinary and damaging restraints on everyday life.
Julian was one of 35 Conservative MPs to vote against the government, who were joined by a further 25 Conservatives who abstained.
After leaving the Commons, Julian said: “Of course government must always have the necessary measures to tackle the virus, but with the amazing success of the vaccination programme, I no longer think it is right to hand enormous powers to Ministers and civil servants for such long periods of time.
If the government had asked for powers to make restrictions to continue to the end of the roadmap around late June, or had committed to returning to seek the consent of the Commons for necessary restrictions to be kept in place in say 3 or 4 months, I would probably have been able to support them, but until September is simply too great a surrender of power by the people’s elected representatives.
The size of the Conservative rebellion means the government only won the vote because it had Labour Party support, which I think reflects pretty poorly on a Labour leadership that endlessly criticises the government with the benefit of hindsight, but then always votes with it to maintain extraordinary restrictions for long periods.
I hope the size of the Conservative revolt sends a clear message to Ministers that we expect them to keep to their commitment that the 6 month extension is a precaution, and that they will lift restrictions earlier than that as soon as is safe, as vaccination proceeds.
Fundamentally, I rebelled because now we are through the worst of the pandemic, and have the vaccine, we need to prevent any normalisation of emergency government powers and shift to a constant state of fear. It is entirely reasonable for government to seek powers to confront the emergency, but we should get back to a situation where they do this in the normal way through consulting Parliament, rather than effectively removing MPs’ decision-making abilities for long periods.”