Coronavirus / Fundamental rights
Liberty calls for new pandemic laws that protect everyone
Posted on 25 Mar 2021
- MPs to vote on renewing or repealing Coronavirus Act
- Liberty’s campaign gains cross-Party support and PM commitment
- Thousands contact MPs to support Liberty’s rights-respecting Covid Bill
Liberty is calling on MPs to adopt a pandemic strategy that supports people and protects everyone, rather than renewing the Coronavirus Act at today’s vote.
Today, 25 March, marks the third opportunity Parliament has to vote on the Coronavirus Act, which became law a year ago. The Act – which covers a huge range of areas – is an unprecedented assault on civil liberties.
Liberty has been calling on MPs to reject this approach since the outset of the pandemic. The human rights groups is now calling on MPs to replace the Act with the Protect Everyone Bill. The campaign has gathered support from thousands of people and MPs from across Parliament.
On the morning before MPs vote:
- 7400 people have written to their MPs using Liberty’s tool in support of the Protect Everyone Bill.
- More than 50,000 people have signed Liberty’s petition calling for the Coronavirus Act to be repealed.
- 27 charities and frontline organisations have signed on to Liberty’s campaign.
- The Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to replace the Coronavirus Act with Liberty’s Bill.
- Eight MPs have signed on to Dawn Butler MP’s Coronavirus (No. 2) Bill, based on the Protect Everyone Bill, with the Prime Minister committing to read and respond to it.
- Government has withdrawn parts of the Coronavirus Act that allowed councils to cut social care, but has retained sweeping powers that leave many – particularly the most marginalised – open to abuse.
The Act must be voted on every six months to remain law, and human rights groups and front-line organisations have repeatedly called for it to be repealed.
In consultation with dozens of these groups, Liberty offered Parliament a way to reject the Coronavirus Act – drafting replacement legislation in the Protect Everyone Bill, launched earlier this year.
The Protect Everyone Bill prioritises support and centres public health rather than the Government’s current approach of coercion through threat of criminalisation or heavy financial penalties.
Yesterday, 24 March, Dawn Butler MP, along with seven co-sponsors from three parties, tabled the Coronavirus (No.2) Bill, based on the Protect Everyone Bill, and secured a commitment from the Prime Minister that he would read and respond to it.
The legislation covers 10 different areas, including policing, protections for protest rights, social care, housing, immigration and employment. The Bill, which runs to more than 80 pages, has been drafted and scrutinised by expert barristers.
Liberty’s Interim Director Gracie Bradley said: “We reject the politics of division and criminalisation and call for a new approach.
“Those in power have failed to understand that to get through coronavirus, we need to pull together and create strategies that protect everyone. A year into this crisis, we’re tired of waiting for alternatives, so we’ve come up with one ourselves.
“We’ve shown that it’s possible to create a rights-respecting pandemic response, and a strategy that protects everyone. If MPs renew the Coronavirus Act today, they will do so knowing more of the most marginalised people will be left behind, and everyone’s freedoms will be on the line – and that there was a better alternative.
“The pandemic has shown how much we rely on each other – yet politicians in charge responded with a strategy that created distrust and favoured punishing people instead of providing support.
“We demand a better way forward – one that provides support for everyone and upholds our rights and freedoms.”
The organisations consulted on drafting the Bill include:
2. The Alliance for Inclusive Education
3. Bail for Immigration Detainees
4. Black Protest Legal Support
5. Focus on Labour Exploitation
6. Friends, Families and Travellers
7. Inclusion London
9. Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
10. Latin American Women’s Rights Service
11. Legal Sector Workers United
12. The No Accommodation Network
13. Open Rights Group
14. Project 17
15. Transform Justice
16. The Traveller Movement
17. Women in Prisons
18. Women’s Aid
Barristers who provided support drafting include Ayesha Christie, Daniel Clarke, Alice Irving, Una Morris, Nathan Roberts, and Sarah Sackman.
Among a wide range of support measures, and a roll-back of heavy-handed tactics, the Bill includes:
Policing: roll back the newly created police powers and instead prioritise supporting people to follow clear and consistent public health guidance.
Protections for protest, the Bill will explicitly protect safe, socially distanced protests and protest rights – vital in times of crisis.
Immigration: a complete suspension of the Hostile Environment, no deportations and the release of all those held in immigration centres.
Health and social care: including scrapping legislation that weakened support for disabled people during the pandemic.
Data protection assurances, including a firewall between immigration and law enforcement.
Prisons: immediately lower the prison population and ensure people released are supported.
Housing: no evictions, safe accommodation for homeless people, and support for Gypsy and Traveller communities.
Education: money to support families for Free School Meals, rights assessments before school closures, guidance on remote education,
Workers’ rights: full sick pay and other support for isolating workers, guaranteed minimum earnings and safety assurances.
Social welfare: quicker access to Universal Credit and an increase in other benefits.
Contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 / 07973 831 128 or email@example.com
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