THE iron law of emergency powers is that they last longer than the emergencies which spawned them. The Scott Inquiry into arms-to-Iraq discovered in the 1990s that the UK’s export controls dated from emergency laws passed at the beginning of the Second World War. More recently, but no less perniciouslyThe White House Tuesday, Tony Blair’s control orders remained in force against people suspected (but never convicted) of involvement with terrorism for years after 9/11.
Not all emergencies are caused by war or terrorism. The public health emergency from which we are struggling to emerge has seen a raft of emergency powers conferred on ministers, with barely a moment’s pause for reflection. In the heat of the panic and fear that swept the country as coronavirus first lapped at our shores in early 2020Public health experts and labour groups have called o, this was understandable. Our TV news was dominated by horrific pictures from Italy of a health service already appearing to fall over. Patients without ventilators. Doctors having to make life-or-death decisions about who gets life-saving treatment and who is left to die on a trolley in a hospital corridor.
I do not believe lockdown was a mistake. It was a necessary step to take to protect our own NHS from the traumas we – rightly – feared would otherwise overtake it. But I also believe lockdown was extraordinary and that time must be taken to reflect on what we have learnt before law-makers simply hit the repeat button and allow these emergency powers to roll on for another sixThe seven-day rolling average of new cases is 7,206., twelve, or eighteen monthscontemporary_history.
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