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extension of leave to remain

Part of Coronavirus Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden 8:15 pm, 23rd March 2020

I am glad to get my hon. Friend’s support. He has always been assiduous in these matters and he is right on that point. A reasonable person might say, “Well, the logical argument surely is that if all the powers are identical to ones that exist already, what am I complaining about?” That is a reasonable question. The reason is that the Bill loses many of the checks and balances in the preceding emergency legislation.

I was not quite here for the 1984 legislation, but I was for the later ones, and those of us who put these things through the House fought hard and long to get the proper restrictions on Government power and the proper requirements to bring the legislation back to the House so that the House could approve it. The requirements are all in there, including it having to be cleared in seven days, us having to be recalled in five days if we are in recess and it having to be done through secondary legislation, which makes it capable of judicial review. I know that the Government do not like judicial review, but nowhere is it more important than when the Government exercise powers at the expense of citizens and the courts have to step in.

As Chris Bryant said, the six-monthly review that the Government have conceded is an important concession, but only if the House can amend or strike out. Anything else puts the House in the position of having to vote for a Bill that might be horrific in one part because the other three parts are essential—not likeable, not pleasant, not beneficial, but essential—for fighting this real threat.

Do not get me wrong: coronavirus is a real threat. I have made these arguments over the years when the House has considered similar legislation relating to terrorism. We are facing 10 to 100 times the death rate in one year than the death rate from terrorism in 10 years. Of course there is a real threat, but we will be put in a position of saying either we take the whole Bill—three-quarters vital and one quarter horrible—or we strike down something that is vital for protecting the public. That is the position that this House has been in over the 30 years—I am looking straight at the Leader of the Opposition now, because he and I were in the same Lobby time and again—when counter-terrorism regulations were put through on a rubber stamp precisely to protect the public. That is why Labour Members—if they will forgive me for giving them advice—should be pressing for an amendable approval at six months.