Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:55 pm on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West 5:55 pm, 11th November 2020

We have made the case against the regulations in this House and we have lost all the votes, and that is democracy. However, liberal western democracy is more than rule by the majority. It certainly includes freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom to worship. One of the most worrying aspects of our response to the coronavirus has been the way people have simply shrugged as these freedoms have been dispensed with. The Government have armed themselves with all the coercive powers of the state to tell us whom we may meet, when we may meet them, where we may meet them and what we must wear. Freedom of protest has been dispensed with, as has freedom of worship.

Is it not interesting the way that subsidiaries of the totalitarian state, in their eagerness, seek to exceed even what has been proscribed and prescribed? I have received representations from clinicians who have been threatened that their jobs will be taken from them because they have publicly expressed their doubts about the wisdom of the policy or, indeed, their doubts about the misuse or the concealment of data. We had the extraordinary scene of a nurse being charged with assault for seeking to liberate her mother from a care home. Could this have happened in our country? Then we saw those students seeking to effect a great escape from the Stalag Luft III that their university had imposed on them.

As these enormities occurred, instead of the expected rising chorus of protest, on the contrary we are told by the pollsters that actually the British people thirst for even greater restraints on their liberty. I am appalled—absolutely appalled. These liberties, as we heard in the debate earlier this afternoon, were bought at an extraordinarily high price. Now, as we move into the vaccinated sunny uplands of release and freedom, there is a danger that the state has learned a powerful lesson over the last few months—namely, that the British people do not worry too much about their liberties and that they can be dispensed with conveniently when need arises. I hope that this House will wake up to that danger and seek a remedy.