James Grundy MP: Emergency powers need to remain
For the majority of this year, one of the issues that has dominated the media, politics, and even our conversations with family and friends has been the coronavirus pandemic.
Nobody could have ever expected for this year to have changed our lives in such a drastic way, having lived through a complete lockdown of our country and now continuing to adapt to COVID-19 measures to help keep the virus at bay and avoid a second peak.
As you can imagine, this is also the issue that constituents have contacted me about most over the course of the last eight months, and earlier in the year, my team and I were inundated with enquiries from constituents about accessing the Government’s support packages for business, asking for guidance in difficult circumstances and accessing local support for people within their local community.
Over the last few months, we have seen different COVID-19 measures be reduced or increased across parts of the United Kingdom, in order to respond to local outbreaks and avoid another national lockdown.
Of course, this has led to different questions being asked, and throughout the last few weeks, I have been asked by local residents for my view on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020.
Back in March this year, MPs across the House voted in favour of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which granted the Government emergency powers for six months to help tackle the virus as quickly as possible, rather than waiting for measures to be voted on by MPs and risk delaying urgently needed action to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19.
Last week, MPs were asked again to vote on the Coronavirus Act 2020, this time, to grant or reject an extension to the Government’s emergency powers to tackle COVID-19.
This prompted debate over the last month by MPs across the House as well as the public, with some questioning whether these emergency powers were still necessary.
Although we are at a very different stage of the pandemic to what we were earlier in the year, it is my belief that these powers are still necessary, to ensure that should a second wave arise or localised measures be required, our Government is able to take immediate action.
I believe that these powers are still necessary, which is why I voted in favour of an extension to the Coronavirus Act 2020, as did MPs across the House.
In recent weeks, we have seen another rise in COVID-19 cases, which has again required the Government to take swift action in order to prevent a second wave.
This, amongst other reasons, confirmed my view that the Government’s emergency powers need to remain in place until such a time that the virus no long presents such a threat.
The measures outlined in the Coronavirus Act have also enabled the Government to act decisively to prepare for all scenarios; Nightingale Hospitals have been established across the country and are able to provide extra capacity should this ever be required; more PPE supplies have been manufactured and circulated (with over 70% of our PPE supply being provided by UK businesses); and the UK is at the forefront of the international efforts to produce a safe COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.
There were however amendments put forward to the Coronavirus Act 2020, such as the Brady Amendment, tabled by Sir Graham Brady, Member of Parliament for Altrincham and Sale West.
The Brady Amendment proposed that should the Government wish to make vital changes to COVID-19 measures, MPs should be granted a vote on such changes.
Whilst I was sympathetic to the proposals put forward in the Brady Amendment, and despite cross party support for the proposals, the amendment was not selected by the Speaker.
Sadly, this year has brought great difficulties to local residents, people across the country and across the world, but over the coming weeks and months it remains important that we all act with the utmost vigilance and follow the rules in place, to help us all return to normality as soon as we are able.
In the meantime, I want to reassure you that I will continue to voice the concerns of my constituents to the Government to ensure that local voices remain to be heard whilst such decisions are being made, as I have done throughout the pandemic.