Lib Dems secure Govt assurances on human rights and scrutiny of emergency coronavirus powers

The Liberal Democrats last night secured assurances from the Government in the House of Lords that the wide-ranging emergency powers in the Coronavirus Act will be compliant with human rights law, and that Ministers will have to justify keeping the powers in force.

An amendment tabled by Liberal Democrat peer Sarah Ludford pressed the Government on ensuring the legislation, which include extra powers for police and immigration officers to detain people and the power to restrict or ban events and gatherings, would be used only as necessary and proportionate. The Government Minister, Lord Bethell of Romford, assured the House that it would act with proportionality “at all times”.

In response to a separate amendment tabled by crossbencher Lord Anderson of Ipswich, a former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, and co-sponsored by Baroness Ludford, the Government conceded that it would provide “evidence and explanations” for keeping the emergency powers in force in its two-monthly reports to Parliament, beyond what was explicitly required in the Bill.

Following the debate in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Sarah Ludford said:

“We are pleased to have secured these assurances from the Government during what has been an incredibly important legislative process.“

We understand the need for wide-ranging emergency powers to deal with this crisis, but the Government must only use those powers when they are necessary and proportionate.

“Liberal Democrats will remain vigilant to ensure that any restrictions on civil liberties are only temporary. We will continue to scrutinise the Government to ensure that people’s rights and freedoms are not curtailed any more than necessary, and are fully restored once this crisis is over.”

The full content of the debate is here