Coronavirus Bill: the greatest loss of liberty in our history

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, on the alarming authoritarianism of the government’s new powers.

The Coronavirus Bill, having sailed through the House of Commons, is expected to become law today. The Bill gives the government and the authorities unprecedented new powers, unheard of in a democracy during peacetime. Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, has warned that these powers are unreasonably draconian, and could be here to stay long after the threat of the virus has dissipated. spiked caught up with Carlo to find out more.

spiked: What’s wrong with the Coronavirus Bill?

Silkie Carlo: This is a 329-page bill conferring extraordinary powers to the executive, which is being rushed through parliament in just three days. This is completely unprecedented. It leaves us with the greatest loss of liberty that we have probably ever had in this country on the back of one piece of legislation in peacetime.

The duration of the powers is one of the first things that stands out. The bill was drafted to allow its powers to last for two years – an extremely long period of time for such extreme emergency powers. Big Brother Watch ran a campaign over the weekend saying two years is too long and thousands of people emailed their MPs. The government has conceded an amendment which allows for a review after six months. But the way this has been phrased means that, essentially, the government can come back in six months and say that the powers need to continue. It would require parliament to vote against the government to try to get rid of the bill. Obviously, the numbers in parliament are really stacked against that at the moment.

If we are honest with ourselves, these powers are going to be here to stay. The virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Crisis follows crisis. The slippery slope might be an overused term, but it is very, very difficult to reverse the handing over of such extraordinary powers.

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