Emergency Powers

How to Ensure Lockdowns Cannot Happen Again

There follows a guest post by former Google software engineer Mike Hearn.

How can we avoid a repeat of the last two years?

To ensure policy failure on such a scale never happens again, those of us who oppose them need concrete legislative proposals that could be implemented by a parliament or congress, and which address the root causes of the failed policies themselves. Very often in history we see that ideas for political reform have to be kicked around the public sphere for a while before being picked up by politicians. In that spirit I lay out some proposed changes to the law, designed to encode lessons learned from the Covid pandemic. Not all of these proposals apply to every country and they take for granted the acceptance of a viewpoint that is still contested – namely, that Covid non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) were a mistake. But the ideas here will hopefully prove useful as a launching point for further discussion – and perhaps, eventually, political campaigns.

My goal here is to make proposals that are only partially within the Overton Window of currently acceptable political thought. The justification: ideas fully within the Window will be generated by politicians during any normal public inquiry anyway. Ideas fully outside it won’t be considered at all. All proposals should be somewhat uncomfortable to read for someone fully committed to mainstream politics, but not entirely so. Please note that anything related to pharmaceutical or financial interventions are out of scope for this article. Further work (perhaps by other people) may address legislative proposals around these.

Trudeau Invokes Emergency Powers to Freeze Freedom Convoy Protesters’ Bank Accounts

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act to crack down on Freedom Convoy protests against vaccine mandates and Government overreach over COVID-19. It is the first time the extreme legislation has been triggered since it was enacted in 1988, and it empowers banks to freeze the personal accounts of protestors without the permission of a court. The Government is also extending “terrorist financing” rules to cover the protestors. BBC News has more.

Mr Trudeau said the scope of the measures would be “time-limited”, “reasonable and proportionate”. The military will not be called to assist.

Without a court order, banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests.

Mr Trudeau faces widespread criticism for his handling of the protests.

“This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs,” he said.

He said the police would be given “more tools” to imprison or fine protesters and protect critical infrastructure.

The extraordinary move by Mr Trudeau comes as demonstrations across Canada enter their third week. It is his most aggressive move since the protests began.

On Sunday, law enforcement cleared anti-mandate protesters at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor – a critical pathway for Canada-US trade – after a week-long stalemate.

Hundreds of protesters remain in Canada’s capital city.

Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for a state of emergency in the province in response to the protests.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests without any need for a court order.

Vehicle insurance of anyone involved with the demonstrations can also be suspended, she added.

She said they were broadening Canada’s “Terrorist Financing” rules to cover cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms, as part of the effort to clamp down on the protests.

“It’s all about following the money,” she said.

The Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, demands a high legal bar to be invoked. It may only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians”. Lawful protests do not qualify.

Speaking on Monday, Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti said the Government believes these conditions have been met, saying the current crisis is national in scope and exceeds the power of existing laws and Canada’s provinces to respond.

Mr Lametti and Mr Trudeau stressed that the enormous power of the legislation would be applied temporarily, and in a highly specific manner. But the decision has already been met with criticism.

The BBC draws attention to the fact that last year, Trudeau angered the Indian Prime Minister by supporting farmers in India who blocked major highways to New Delhi. “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest,” he said at the time.

Worth reading in full.

Covid ICU Occupancy is Less Than a Quarter of its Peak Last January and Declined Further in the Past Two Days. Time to Declare the Pandemic Over

Despite the record numbers of reported infections in the U.K. and hospital admissions rising in the past few weeks (though up to half are incidental admissions being treated for something else), Covid ICU occupancy has barely budged since the summer, and even declined in the past two days. In London, total Covid hospital patients also declined in the past two days. This time last year, with a third of the infection rate (according to the ONS) Covid ICU occupancy nationally was three and a half times higher, at around 3,000 patients, rising to a peak of 4,000 two weeks later.

Whether due to greater population immunity, a milder strain, or better treatments, this is obviously very welcome. It is also confirmation that the pandemic is well and truly over – we are basically now expending vast resources tracking the spread of a cold – and it is time for the Government to acknowledge this fact, lift all restrictions, end all emergency powers, and bring the state of emergency to an end.

Protests Erupt in Melbourne to Oppose Government’s Emergency Powers

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, to oppose the unprecedented emergency powers the Victorian Government is trying to grant itself. 7news has more.

Thousands of people gathered in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday to rally against the State Government’s new emergency powers and vaccine mandates.

Protesters blocked tram lines as they marched from the State Library to Parliament. One man was seen carrying a homemade gallows with three nooses but there were no reports of unrest.

Former Liberal MP turned United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly addressed the protest, saying mandatory vaccinations were an “abuse of human rights”.

“We are being governed by medical bureaucrats that are part of a mad, insane cult of vaccinists,” he told the rally.

As of Friday, just under 93% of Victorians aged 12 years-old and over had received at least one vaccine dose and 86% both.

The deadline for construction workers to be fully vaccinated to continue working on site has been reached.

The controversial mandate, which sparked violent protests across Melbourne in September, requires all tradies to have had two vaccine doses by Saturday.

Victorian aged care workers must be fully vaccinated by Monday and about one million of the state’s essential workers in total will be required to be double-jabbed by November 26th.

Worth reading in full.

“Dial 999” If You’re “Really Concerned” about a Police Officer, Says Former Scotland Yard Senior Officer

Prompted by the sentencing of Wayne Couzens for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard in a case that has raised awareness about the level of confusion over the powers handed to the police by ’emergency’ coronavirus legislation, Scotland Yard has issued advice for those approached by an undercover officer. MailOnline has the story.

Scotland Yard said in a statement that it is “unusual for a single plain clothes police officer to engage with anyone in London”, although it can happen.

They said that an lone officer could be seeking to arrest you, but if they do then you should “expect to see other officers arrive shortly afterwards”.

As of yesterday the Metropolitan Police announced they would not deploy plain clothes officers on their own.

Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House said: “We will not operate plain clothes officers on their own. If we do use them, they will be in pairs.”

However he said there will be “occasions” where that is not possible – such as when a pair of officers are split up – and noted that off-duty officers [will] not [be] in uniform. …

You would expect a lone police officer who is arresting you to soon be joined by backup, although it is possible that this might not happen and you are still alone.

Scotland Yard said in this case that it was “entirely reasonable for you to seek further reassurance of that officer’s identity and intentions”.

The Met said it advises people to “ask some very searching questions of that officer”, including:

~ “Where are your colleagues?”

~ “Where have you come from?”

~ “Why are you here?”

~ “Exactly why are you stopping or talking to me?”

Former Scotland Yard Senior Officer Parm Sandhu told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that there were things people could do if they were concerned about an arrest.

She said that people should not get into the vehicle unless it’s a marked police vehicle and ask to see the radio, or ask the arresting officer to call their colleagues and make sure they are on duty. She added: “If you’re really concerned dial 999.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Peter Hitchens asks how does “such a person become a police officer and *remain[ed]* one” in the first place.

It Would Be “Irresponsible” to Allow All ‘Temporary’ Covid Powers to Expire, Says Prime Minister’s Spokesman

There’s some more news today on the Government’s plan to renew its ‘temporary’ Covid powers, with the Prime Minister’s spokesman saying: “It would obviously be irresponsible to allow all temporary provisions to expire.” The Guardian has the story.

Downing Street signalled its intention to renew the Coronavirus Act later this autumn, although some temporary powers may be allowed to expire.

“It would obviously be irresponsible to allow all temporary provisions to expire. These are provisions that would, if removed, take away the Government’s ability to protect renters from eviction, for example, or to give sick pay to those self-isolating from day one,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman said.

“So it’s important that we take a proportionate approach to the Coronavirus Act because there are elements that do still provide protections for the public.”

Number 10 said some provisions in the wide-ranging legislation may be allowed to expire. “As you know, we’ve allowed temporary powers in the act to expire wherever possible, as we have at previous review points, and we are now, as a result, one of the most open societies in Europe and indeed the world.”

The confirmation is likely to spark some questions from Conservative MPs about whether the Government is reserving the right to introduce new restrictions if cases spike later this year.

Johnson’s spokesman said it was “fair to say” a rise in cases was inevitable this autumn, based on the scientific advice.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Seeks to Renew ‘Emergency’ Coronavirus Powers

Parliament will vote on whether to renew the Coronavirus Act later this month, a year and a half after it was first introduced to grant ’emergency’ powers to the Government. A clause within the Act means that it will automatically lapse in March 2022. Ministers are keen to keep hold of their powers until then due in part to fears of ‘potential challenges’ this winter. The Financial Times has the story.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, will face his first parliamentary battle of the autumn over the measure when the House of Commons returns from its summer recess next week. Ministers are preparing for a fight with anti-lockdown backbench Conservative MPs over the Coronavirus Act, which handed the Government sweeping emergency powers in March 2020.

The legislation includes lifting restrictions on public bodies, such as limits on school class sizes, and allows the police to force those suspected of having the virus into self-isolation. …

When parliament last voted on the act, five months ago, the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said he could not rule out a further extension but said his own preference was for it not to be renewed. 

But ministers will argue that emergency powers are still required for another six months, despite limited restrictions in place at the moment, in light of potential challenges ahead this winter.

Officials at the Department for Health and Social Care said the extension of the legislation was necessary because coronavirus cases across the U.K. were currently running high, hospitalisations were rising and a difficult flu season was expected. Ministers are also braced for a surge of cases when schools return to England in the next week.

One Government insider said the Government had no choice but to keep the legislation in place. “The Coronavirus Act is going to be one of the trickier bills to pass. We’re gearing up for a fight with our own MPs, who are going to be reluctant to support it.”

30 Tory MPs rebelled in March’s vote to renew the act and the rebels believe that the number will be higher this month. 

Mark Harper, the Conservative MP who Chairs the influential Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptics, said there was no need to renew the legislation which contained “the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history”, citing the provisions for indefinite detention.

“Our vaccine roll-out has been a huge success. We have seen a dramatic and welcome fall in people suffering from serious disease and death from Covid as a result,” he said.

“We are going to have to learn to live with this virus, and retaining sweeping powers of detention in the Coronavirus Act is not consistent with this. What justification can there be for extending these measures?”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “The crisis point of the pandemic has passed,” says David Davis MP. “So it is now time to roll back the extensive powers unwisely handed over to the State.”

Nothing is So Permanent as a Temporary (Scottish) Government Programme

One of the most alarming things about the response to the pandemic by democratic governments across the world is the enthusiasm with which they’ve granted themselves ’emergency’ powers, suspending civil rights – and elections – so that they might better deal with the ‘crisis’. Executives have faced little opposition from legislatures, attempts to restrain political leaders through the courts have been largely unsuccessful and the media has, for the most part, failed to hold them to account. Bad though this has been, however, we have always been able to take some comfort from the fact that these extraordinary powers were temporary and that, eventually, when things returned to normal, governments would have to relinquish them.

Turns out, that was naive. The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to make its ’emergency’ Covid powers permanent. The Telegraph has more.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, unveiled a public consultation on removing the March 2022 expiry date for a host of extraordinary powers, including the ability to impose lockdowns, close schools and require people to wear face coverings.

Controversial rules allowing more prisoners to be released early could also be extended, along with the wider use of fines as an alternative to prosecution.

Mr Swinney insisted measures that were no longer needed would be removed, but argued those with “demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland” should be retained for use against Covid or anything else deemed a public health threat.

He argued the consultation was “an opportunity to maintain changes that have been welcomed by people who now don’t want to lose transformations that have been innovative” during the pandemic.

Worth reading in full.