Coronavirus POLL: Has Boris Johnson been given too much power with emergency bill? VOTE

The bill, which gives ministers increased powers, is being rushed through its parliamentary stages as the country struggles to get a grip of the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple sections of the bill are aimed at reducing pressure on different sectors during the epidemic. The bill wold give courts the ability to increase use of audio and video links.

And rules around detention under mental health laws would be relaxed.

The Government would also be given powers to restrict public events and shut down pubs.

As Mr Johnson rolled out sweeping measures to curb social contact, he relied on the goodwill of landlords to close pubs, restaurants and cafes.

The new bill will hand him stronger powers to force owners to shutter their premises.

If the UK Government and devolved ministers agree that a gathering or venue is likely to pose a risk to public health, action can be taken.

The owners may be ordered to close and failure to do so could result in a fine.

The measures contained in the 329-page bill were initially meant to last two years.

But Conservative and Labour MPs spoke up to challenge No10 on the lengthy timeframe, with some arguing the bill should be reviewed as often as each month.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “We have heard the concerns about the need for periodic review of the powers in the bill.

“We have, therefore, this morning, tabled a government amendment to the bill to require the House of Commons to renew the legislation every 6 months.

“Should the Commons decline to renew the temporary provisions, the government will be required to bring forward regulations to ensure they expire.”

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Welsh Labour MP Chris Bryant was among the outspoken critics of the two-year timeframe.

Writing in PoliticsHome, Mr Bryant warned: “It’s a rule throughout history that governments – even good governments – are quick to take extra powers to themselves and slow to return them.”

He said he was “amazed” the Government had favoured such a long period for the powers to remain in place.

He said Downing Street’s “concession” that would see ministers update the House every two months “goes nowhere near far enough”.

He added: “The powers in this bill that confer an additional benefit to people could stand for two years without explicit renewal, but any measure that restricts liberty should be subject to a renewal clause so that at the very least Parliament has a moment to consider whether they are still needed.

“I would prefer that to be every thirty days, but I accept there may be an argument for an initial period of ninety days followed by regular renewals every thirty days.”

The Government has passed all stages of its emergency legislation through the House of Commons.

The bill is now being considered by the House of Lords.

It is expected to become law by Thursday at the latest.

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