A British MP on Sunday said the UK needs an updated Public Health Act so the government can’t make decisions such as imposing lockdowns without parliamentary scrutiny.
Writing in The Telegraph, Conservative MP Steve Baker said that lockdowns and restrictions have caused “immense damage” as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus itself did, citing food insecurity, physical and mental health implications, interruption of education, unemployment, and the huge cost of the measures.
Baker also cited a new report (pdf) by the Treasury Committee, which called on the government to be more transparent about economic analyses it undertakes during crises and to include economists in its decision-making process alongside epidemiologists and health experts.
“That’s why we need a new Public Health Act: an improved set of democratic checks and balances which would provide greater confidence in decisions and prevent a Government from overreaching,” the article reads. “A new Act requiring proper impact assessments would force ministers to engage in a rigorous, cross-departmental exercise, weighing up the benefits and harms of each proposed restriction in light of its impact on health, on education, on the economy, and on personal liberty.”
Baker said that unless in exceptional circumstances, measures proposed by the government shouldn’t take effect before Parliament approves them, and they should have a sunset provision of 30 days.
Baker is the deputy chair of COVID Recovery Group (CRG), a group of MPs who argued the government’s lockdown measures to curb the spread of the CCP virus may not be proportionate to the problem.
Sixty-three Conservative MPs on Saturday signed the group’s letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, demanding that he lift all CCP virus restrictions by the end of April.
Since its launch on Nov. 10, 2020, CRG has been demanding the government publish full cost benefit analyses of restrictions.
According to the government, its emergency power to make public health regulations came from Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and and Coronavirus Act 2020, which was rushed through Parliament in March.
After MPs raised concerns about government overreach, Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sept. 30 promised to consult Parliament and try to hold votes before regulations com into force.
Johnson on Monday refused to set firm dates for easing lockdown measures, arguing instead that a “cautious but irreversible” plan would be preferable.
Alexander Zhang contributed to this report.