Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael MP, has attacked reports that the Government may seek to expand emergency powers under the Civil Contingencies Act. Downing Street sources have confirmed that the Cabinet Office has launched a review of the Civil Contingencies Act, increasing the Government’s emergency powers and may lead to Parliament losing much of its ability to approve emergency measures such as lockdowns and other restrictions on freedoms.
While the Government has been required to seek Parliamentary approval for Covid-19 lockdowns since the virus took hold last March, the review is considering whether faster decision making would benefit the response to any future crises, such as another pandemic.
Mr Carmichael said:
“Giving more emergency powers to this Government would be like giving a bulldozer to a baby – you don’t know exactly what they would do with it but you know that things will get broken.
“The Government has never lacked legal powers or parliamentary support when it was necessary given the unprecedented situation. What they have lacked is basic competence – and that gives no confidence that they deserve more power. Better accountability is the only way to ensure better outcomes.
“We need to curb the use of emergency powers, not make them the default response. We need to learn lessons from the pandemic so that sweeping illiberal measures are a thing of the past, not the “new normal”.
“Liberal Democrats are clear that any restrictions on civil liberties must be only temporary, and that our rights and freedoms must be fully restored once this crisis is over.”