ER Editor: The UK government has had two pieces of legislation to guide it through the pandemic, one of which it used in a general sense where fundamental liberties have been violated. The second wasn’t used because it would have required parliamentary oversight, i.e. democratic control. This according to Lord Jonathan Sumption’s reasoning, which Eddie Farrell outlines below. We know that the UK to date has been one of the worst hit countries for violation of citizens’ rights over this supposed virus crisis, with some truly devastating consequences for all demographic groups.
So why hasn’t lawyer Keir Starmer gone to bat for the people on this? Isn’t that what Labour, the party of the people, is supposed to do?
This type of article echoes a piece we published yesterday titled Longest-Serving Woman In Congress Feels Increasingly Alienated In Democratic Party, in which Democrat Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio bemoans the Democrat betrayal of ordinary citizens. And so it is with Britain’s Labour Party, especially under Keir Starmer.
The audio recording below is cued. We recommend listening to Lord Sumption in the raw.
Open Letter To Keir Starmer Why has the opposition failed to address the misuse of Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984?
Dear Keir Starmer,
As a resident of Camden I despair at the endless economic and physical ravages inflicted on this borough through government covid policy, followed up with the often heedless measures imposed by Camden council who appear hell-bent on destroying the welfare, livelihood and character of the borough.
Where I realise a similar situation is being played out all over the UK (and the world), I also hear you, as leader of the UK opposition, often speak of acting in the national interest and holding this government to account. It is in this context that I was re-listening to Lord Jonathan Sumption in a conversation with Telegraph columnists Allison Pearson (from 10th September 2020) that a very important question came to my attention.
In the conversation (which I have linked and partially transcribed below) Lord Sumption explains how the government, since March 2020, have NOT been using the (ER: new) Coronavirus act to “justify lockdown and the quarantine rules and most of the other regulations”; the actions have been made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984; which was extensively amended in 2008.
In Lord Sumption’s words:
I do not believe that that act [Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984] confers on the government the powers which the government is purported to exercise because it is a basic principle of the British constitutional law that you cannot invade fundamental rights.
He then warns about governments being too general about what they are up to, something that can never happen when it threatens Liberty:
You’ve got to be specific about it, and the reason for that is that if you use general words to justify draconian invasions [erosion] of fundamental rights, there’s too big a risk that it will pass unnoticed in the course of the parliamentary process.
This warning rings alarms when considering the constant criticism, in the media and in the street, of government being too vague, confused, undecided, using mixed messaging, confused and flip-flopping.
One other worrying point from the following section mentions the limited powers of government through the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and how…
[the] only specific language in the public health act which justifies invasions of liberty relates to people who are believed on reasonable grounds to be infectious.
One’s thoughts are immediately drawn to the mandating of face masks and the recent and frankly sinister government covid campaign compelling the public to “act like you’ve got it”.
The points I’ve brought to your attention above are ones that have passed with little or no opposition from you and your party and, if anything, you’ve only really emphasised how, if Labour were in power, you would do it all faster and harder.
However, it’s the final comments from Lord Sumption, the mention of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 that for me broaches the most serious question about tactics used by government opposition.
Having described the government’s choice to use the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 as “profoundly controversial”, Lord Sumption then introduces the Civil Contingencies Act 2004:
[an act] concerned with emergencies including health-related emergencies and it empowers ministers to do anything that could be done by an act of parliament.
Lord Sumption feels this is the act that was made for what the UK is experiencing through covid right now. He describes it as an “oddity” why such a bill is not being used by the government? He explains how the act works:
Regulation of the act is only provisionally valid for seven days unless it is approved by parliament, thereafter it only has validity for thirty days; it has to be reviewed every thirty days. Moreover, exceptionally there are provisions entitling parliament to amend the regulations which is laid before it or to revoke it at anytime.
So he asks “Why haven’t they used it?” and he continues:
The only reason I can think of why the government did not use the one piece of legislation that is plainly applicant is that it wished to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.
Lord Sumption suggests that the government must have been legally advised “because they have plenty of legal advice” and so have deliberately used the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 instead of using the more applicable Civil Contingencies Act 2004 in order to “avoid parliamentary scrutiny”
If that rightly or wrongly explains the government’s position, where does it leave the opposition, if led by a distinguished and highly knowledgable legal brain like yourself, who I assume would know that more government scrutiny and more holding to account could be exercised by parliament through The Civil Contingencies Act 2004?
Then why haven’t you and your party, as the official opposition, not kicked up hell and exposed the government for using the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 instead of the more accountable Civil Contingencies Act 2004?
You are best positioned to answer that question.
I would appreciate if you would.