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MPs urged to scrap 'draconian' Coronavirus Act that could result in reduced support for disabled people

CAMPAIGNERS for disabled people’s rights have joined civil-liberty and protest groups in urging MPs to reject the renewal of the Coronavirus Act in the Commons tomorrow.

Parliament passed the Act in March to give ministers powers to respond to the pandemic, including to postpone local elections, close pubs and allow courts to use videolink.

The time-limited powers, described as draconian by rights groups, can only be extended with MPs’ approval. 

Chief executive of Disability Rights UK Kamran Mallick said that the Act was “rightly” put in place to protect people from the spread of the virus — but that it also allows for central and local government to drop their obligations of social care for disabled people.

Alongside the Act, local authorities are allowed to withdraw educational support to disabled children and to remove vital protections for those with mental-health conditions.

Mr Mallick urged MPs to remove the provisions that would allow support to be taken away and restore provisions in the Care Act.

He said that this would “show disabled people that we matter to this country. That we are not second-class citizens, not cannon fodder for this virus: that we are valued, important members of society, equal to non-disabled people in practice and in law.”

Campaign group Big Brother Watch has urged people to email their MPs to press them to “repeal draconian powers.” Its campaign is backed by 21 groups, including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Inquest, Liberty, race-equality campaigners the Runnymede Trust, Black Lives Matter, the Traveller Movement and homelessness charity Streets Kitchen.

Liberty argues that the government’s pandemic response “puts criminal justice ahead of public health, puts immigration policy above human life, cuts care services for disabled people, and limits protest rights.”

Director Martha Spurrier said: “MPs have had six months to watch the failure of using a criminal-justice response to a public-health crisis and the cruelty of how the Coronavirus Act abandons the most marginalised when their rights need protecting.

“It’s time for Parliament to scrap it.”

Tory MP Sir Graham Brady has tabled an amendment that would give Parliament a say over new national restrictions before they are brought into force.

It is backed by more than 50 rebel Tory MPs and Labour MPs including Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Dawn Butler, Clive Lewis, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Graham Stringer, Derek Twigg, Harriet Harman, John Cryer and John Spellar.

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