Emergency powers to tackle coronavirus set to become law

Draconian measures granting ministers, councils and police wide-ranging powers have been fast-tracked through parliament.

Draconian emergency powers to help the UK cope with the coronavirus pandemic are poised to become law after clearing the House of Lords.

After just two days of debate in the upper chamber, the fast-tracked UK Coronavirus Bill was given an unopposed third reading by peers and has now gone for royal assent.

The unprecedented legislation – granting ministers, councils, police, health professionals and coroners wide-ranging powers that are due to last for up to two years – had already cleared the Commons in one sitting.

It will bring in police powers to clamp down on public gatherings and shut down non-essential businesses.

The changes include giving the police the authority to force people with Covid-19 to stay at home and to fine those who break lockdown rules.

The Bill will also reduce the number of doctors required to sign off on sectioning those with mental health issues from two to one.

UK health minister Lord Bethell expressed his “profound thanks” to those involved with the Bill and ensuring its swift passage through parliament, including other political parties, who he said had “worked in a collaborative and supportive way during this whole process”.

He added: “I would like to thank those who work in parliament and House of Lords who are here today at considerable risk to themselves and have displayed amazing commitment to this remarkable organisation.”

On Tuesday, MSPs in the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a legislative consent motion in support of the UK Bill, to enable Scottish ministers to introduce the new powers as quickly as possible.

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