MPs vote to extend Coronavirus Act for six months 1 year ago

MPs vote to extend Coronavirus Act for six months

Despite Tory rebels, the government have successfully won a vote on renewing emergency coronavirus powers for a further six months

The government won the vote with a majority of 408, with 484 MPs voting for the extension and 76 voting against. 

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Despite initial predictions that around 60 Tory MPs would rebel, 34 Conservative backbenchers voted against the government - with Tory MP and deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, Steve Baker, describing the legislation as “excessive and disproportionate.”

This was echoed by Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, who told the Commons: "Some parts of the act are needed but that's not justification for renewing all of them."

Labour whipped MPs to vote with the government, however 21 Labour MPs broke ranks and also voted against the government.

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The Coronavirus Act 2020, which limits or removes a variety of our civil liberties, was rushed through parliament in four days last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

Initially the legislation was supposed to last two years automatically, but Tory backbenchers pressured the government into inserting a clause that would allow MPs to have a vote every six months on the Act. 

Before the vote, prime minister Boris Johnson said: "The libertarian in me is also trying to protect people's fundamental right to life and their ability to live their lives normally.

"And the only way really to restore that for everybody is for us to beat the disease and the best path to freedom is down the cautious but irreversible road map that we've set out - that's what the freedom lover wants."

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The government have sought to emphasise that, while the authoritarian measures in the Act are being extended, they do not intend to use them all - and have insisted the country is still on track for the end of lockdown on 21 June.

However, when health secretary Matt Hancock was asked if the government would seek to renew the legislation again in September, he told the Commons today: "I cannot answer whether we will be retiring it in six months.

“My preference would be "yes" - but given the last year, I think a prediction would be hasty.”

MPs also voted to approve new regulations for the government’s “cautious but irreversible” route out of lockdown. 

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