The return of rule by decree

After the health secretary promised to consult parliament about any national coronavirus restrictions, now there has been a revert to previous type – with the now familiar act of introducing laws as statutory instruments (ideally when parliamentarians are on a break), with laws published a few hours before they come into force. Parliamentarians are then offered the chance to rubber stamp laws that are already in existence and are already being enforced. There is minimal debate – only 3 minutes per speaker – and the regulations cannot be amended or improved, only given a yes/no. This means law being created pristine on…

Covid and the targeting of free social life

Few scenes embodied the current approach to coronavirus more than images of squadrons of police officers patrolling Hyde Park. They marched in groups of more than 20, closely packed together. Every time they came across a loose-knit group of 4 or 5 people they told them that they ‘must go home’, and that it is against the law to gather in groups of more than 2. Police officers’ own gathering – and their moving from person person, arresting people and wrestling them to the ground, then placing them in a packed police van without a mask – was somehow not seen as…

Lyme Regis dog owners against the new dog-ban PSPO

(A guest post by Debbie Conibere, founder of Lyme Regis dog owners group). The Lyme Regis’s Loving Dog Owners, Visitors & Friends Facebook Group is asking Dorset Council not to use a PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) from 1 January 2021 to enforce a new blanket ban on exercising dogs off lead on the only safe and accessible beach in Lyme Regis. Instead, the group requests that laws already in place regarding dog ownership are enforced appropriately.  This will ensure loving dog owners are not unfairly penalised by only targeting those who break the law. This new PSPO ban will stop the…

Covid wardens must be held to account

The government’s £300 million Covid warden project is now being rolled out across the country, with councils asked to provide wardens to monitor and enforce social distancing rules. These wardens do not have formal powers, but they are linked into council enforcers and to the police. The government guidance for the Covid warden scheme suggests that councils employ private security guards in this role. Unsurprisingly, reports of heavy-handed conduct are coming in. One Norfolk restaurant owner was invaded by ‘black-booted bouncers’, with an ‘aggressive’ manner, after he offered to give his customers a free Scotch egg and salad with their drinks. According…

Manifesto Club response to JCHR inquiry

The Joint Commission on Human Rights (JCHR) has launched an inquiry on the freedom of expression, and issued a call for submissions. One of the questions they are investigating is: ‘Is there a need to review the wording and application of Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) legislation?’ The Manifesto Club submitted a response to the inquiry, arguing that PSPO legislation is not fit for purpose and should be urgently reviewed. Read our full submission on the parliament website.

The shameful policing of London protests

(A guest post by Nigel Jacklin.) Saturday 28 November was the last weekend in which the UK was under the second national lockdown restrictions. We were in London on business, staying in Kings Cross. When I went to move our car, at around 10.30 on Saturday morning, I noticed that, while the streets were deserted, Kings Cross station was completely surrounded by police in bright yellow jackets. The area was eerily quiet. Police vans of all types were parked all along both sides of Pancras Road and other streets around the station. At around 11.30 one of us went to the shops…

In support of PSPO reform petition

A petition has been published on the UK Parliament website calling for the review and reform of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs). The petition states: We believe that local authorities are unfairly implementing Public Space Protections Orders that adversely impact dog owners, cyclists, bikers and others, without adequate consultation or consideration of the impact of these orders. The Government should review reform the rules for creating PSPOs, so the intention of an order has to be set out clearly in the consultation survey, consultations must have a minimum response within a certain time period, and evidence must be produced to support the…

The inhumanity of ‘track and trace’

I received an email from the chairman of 2020 Voice Cancer charity, regarding the treatment of one of his older supporters while on a visit to the seaside. An elderly man, using his mobility scooter, for the reason that he has a terminal cancer which has badly affected his ability to walk, was most grateful to arrive at a waterfront bar. He switched off his scooter, disembarked, with walking stick, and entered: he was desperate to use the toilet which was situated just inside the door and to the left. Having got half way to said toilets he was yelled at by…

Manifesto Club statement on the Rule of 6

MPs today vote on the ‘Rule of 6’ – the limitation on gathering in groups of more than six people. We urge you to email your MP and express your opposition to this statutory instrument. The Manifesto Club statement on this law is below… The UK government’s ban on people meeting in groups larger than six is draconian, undemocratic, and unreasonable. The law makes it a crime for a family of five to meet their grandparents. It criminalises five-a-side football matches and would ban everything from extended family Christmases to children’s birthday parties. It even makes ‘mingling’ into a crime. We have…

Scrap the Rule of 6 – Bring Back Democracy

The UK government has brought through 247 legal orders that have imposed the most dramatic restrictions on our liberties ever. Most of these ‘statutory instruments’ were published only minutes before they came into force. There was no parliamentary discussion or vote. 34 orders were not even laid before parliament before they came into force. This government by decree must end. Current measures include: A ban on people meeting in groups of more than six – across the UK. Local lockdown bans on people in meeting up indoors with people from other households – in areas including Scotland, North-East England (from Wednesday), Birmingham,…

Covid Marshals – The latest yellow-jacketed busybody

The government has announced a new band of ‘Covid marshals’, to patrol Britain’s streets and ensure that no-one is breaking social distancing rules. They will remind people to keep a two-metre distance, enforce one-way pavements, and break up groups of more than six. The Local Government Association (LGA) and police were critical of the announcement, because it has not been costed, nor the wardens given proper powers. But in fact, these institutions – and a whole class of officials – are entirely ready for this development. There is, ready and waiting, a class of wardens absolutely primed for this role. This is…

Against the ‘rule of 6’ – or 8, or 10…

The prime minister has announced that it will be illegal to meet in groups of more than six people from Monday. Many (including apparently most of the cabinet) have argued that children should be exempt, while others argued for a ceiling of eight people. Yet there is a bigger problem with the state engineering of social life in this manner. Time after time, statutory instruments are issued specifying the exact combinations in which people may meet: two households, or up to 30 people, or support bubbles for single-adult households. It then becomes a criminal offence to go beyond the specifications of the…