Ed Davey: We will not support the extension of the Coronavirus Act

Yesterday Ed Davey attracted quite a lot of media coverage when he asked this question during Prime Minister’s Questions:

He explained his reasoning in more detail in an article in The Independent titled Why the Liberal Democrats won’t vote to renew the Coronavirus Act.

He writes:

When Boris Johnson asks MPs to renew the Coronavirus Act on Thursday, he is asking us to give his government a blank cheque to reduce everyone’s rights and freedoms for another six months. No MP should vote for that.

It’s important to remember what this vote is not about. It’s not about lockdown, or quarantine, or the requirement to wear face-coverings – all of which the Liberal Democrats have consistently supported as necessary to contain the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

Despite its name, the Coronavirus Act doesn’t actually include the most important Covid laws. Even though the Act originally passed through the House of Commons on the same day the prime minister announced the first national lockdown – a year ago yesterday – the lockdown itself was implemented through completely separate legislation, under the 1984 Public Health Act.

So what does the Act cover?

Some parts of the act have proven necessary to help tackle the impact of the pandemic, but many haven’t been needed at all. And a lot of them have serious implications for people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

The sheer quantity of emergency legislation has also caused enormous confusion among police and prosecutors, leading to people being wrongfully arrested, charged and even prosecuted. A review by the Crown Prosecution Service has found that of more than 250 prosecutions under the Coronavirus Act in the past year, not a single one was correctly charged.

And finally:

Liberal Democrats have always been clear that our freedoms must be fully restored as soon as this crisis is over. Handing ministers a blank cheque for another six months is unnecessary and unjustified, so we will be voting against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act tomorrow.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Paul Barker 25th Mar '21 - 1:46pm

    This is excellent & answers the question of what Liberal Democrats are for.

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th Mar '21 - 1:49pm

    Perhaps more symbolic than anything. But still very welcome.

  • Good job our profile is so low that no-one will notice. Another fine mess we could have got ourselves into. However the Leader presents his argument the public will see it as irresponsible, The Police, Health and Social Service professionals and Retail staff, just to mention a few will be deflated.I feel embarrassed sharing a vote with this group of right wing Tories. I worry about this party sometimes, just where is it not going..

  • I very much welcome this stance as a step in the right direction. It reflects what organisations such as Liberty have been saying and recognises the reality that temporary government restrictions have a tendency to become permanent. It is in times of crisis that ones commitment to ones beliefs is truly tested.

    There will be times when standing up for liberal values means going through the lobby with the Tory right and other times when it means going through with the Labour left so don’t be put off by that.

    I was feeling unmotivated to turn out and vote in May but at least this has given me some reason to do so.

  • An excellent stance from the party and some good coverage in the news and on social media. Though, can somebody please tell the Welsh Liberal Democrats that they are allowed to promote Lib Dem policy that isn’t devolved… Not even a tweet so far.

  • Nigel Jones 25th Mar '21 - 9:01pm

    @Theakes; I think you misunderstand what is actually happening; our party in Parliament has made it clear many times that we do believe in restricting people when it prevents serious illness and death to others. Layla Moran, for example responded early in the pandemic when challenged about being liberal by making that very point. We are not libertarian like some members of the Tory right.
    We must also note that this government is in the process of removing people’s rights and other similar moves that reduce our democracy as so worrying it is time to stir people up and oppose the direction this government is taking. It took us far too long to wake up to the right wing trends that led to Brexit; let’s not make that sort of mistake again.

  • James Fowler 25th Mar '21 - 9:48pm

    Thank goodness for some real liberalism.

  • Little Jackie Paper 26th Mar '21 - 7:56am

    It will be interesting and very telling to see how people vote on the ID cards that look like they are on the horizon.

  • John Marriott 26th Mar '21 - 8:47am

    I am not a great fan of giving anybody ‘carte Blanche’ to do what they want. For some reason I am reminded of the words spoken by newly elector Chancellor Hitler to the German people, as a prelude to his regime’s Enabling Act. They were “Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit “ (roughly translated “Give me four years”). Well, we all know what happened after that!

    LBC was full this morning of a quote from Freddie ‘Jackal’ Forsyth, where he said that the COVID infected Johnson entered hospital “a cockerel” and, after treatment, emerged “a lamb”. So, perhaps his brush with this deadly virus has chastened him.

    So, although I tend to agree with Mr Davey, I am conscious of what happened to that infection curve last Summer when rules were relaxed, so, on balance I could live with a few more months. Now, if it were Adolf at the helm (P Martin – note the use of the subjunctive) that would be different.

  • Little Jackie Paper 26th Mar '21 - 8:50am

    John Marriott.

    Not a fan of carte Blanche? Too late John. Far, far too late.

  • John Marriott 26th Mar ’21 – 8:47am………….LBC was full this morning of a quote from Freddie ‘Jackal’ Forsyth, where he said that the COVID infected Johnson entered hospital “a cockerel” and, after treatment, emerged “a lamb”………..

    If it’s a ‘lamb’ it’s one with anthrax.. I have seen no difference in his behavior; if anything his dirsegard for truth and what constitutes acceptable personal and public behavior has become even more blatant..

  • Expats: Hear Hear!! Boris Johnson is the same person he ever was and my opinion of him would not be printable on this site!

  • John Marriott 26th Mar '21 - 12:56pm

    My point about Johnson being that clearly something has happened to Mr Johnson. Could it be a dose of common sense? Mind you, the “White Noise” radio station aka LBC is hardly impartial at the best of times.

  • John Marriott 26th Mar '21 - 1:12pm

    Sorry, folks. I got Forsyth’s analogy wrong. Johnson went in “like a cockerel” and came out “a chicken”!,

  • Barry Lofty 26th Mar '21 - 2:28pm

    John Marriott ” Would that be the ” the oven ready variety? ” or the already stuffed!

  • John Marriott 26th Mar '21 - 3:22pm

    @Barry Lofty
    To continue the food analogy, you could say that, while COVID cooked Trump’s goose, it clearly saved Johnson’s bacon.

    And …..on the subject of ‘cakeism’, the attitude from some EU countries regarding the antidote to COVID would appear to be having your cake but refusing to eat it!

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Mar '21 - 12:20am

    Really glad to hear Ed’s Commons reply and read what he wrote, thank you, Mary. It was high time for him to speak out in defence of our civil liberties, which can so easily not be restored, and set a marker. (I won’t say ‘a line in the sand’, as lines in sand are easily washed away, unlike our principles.}

  • Nigel Jones:
    Not sure I have missed the pont. I was talking of how it comes across to the average member of the public, that perhaps is far more important than our individual views. We need votes not great principles that in any case many may disagree with.
    Our Leader and his comment after to Clapham Common demo last week is another, destroyed yesterday by the Watchdog report.
    We are at 6% being hunted down by the Greens, perhaps in view of the above we should not be surprised.
    I want to see us grow not just decline for ever into total obscurity.

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