Coronavirus: Labour backs fines for people who won't stay at home if lockdown enforced
Baroness Shami Chakrabarti says opposition would support draconian move – but warns people will ‘not comply’ if they have no money to buy food
Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said the party would back the “necessary” emergency legislation set to be published by Boris Johnson's government on Thursday – which gives police and immigration sweeping powers to arrest, detain and isolate those infected.
Asked if Labour would back financial penalties for people who leave their homes without good reason – already coming into force in parts of France and Spain under lockdown – Baroness Chakrabarti said: “If it becomes necessary and proportionate.”
But Baroness Chakrabarti said any draconian enforcement orders would simply not work if the government did not guarantee British citizens an income. “People will not comply if they are forced out onto the streets if they have no money,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The bottom line is, by whatever method, there has to be comprehensive income protection for every human being in this country, so nobody is forced to choose between their own health and public health, on the one hand, and the basic means of surviving.”
The Emergency Coronavirus Bill tabled today will enable the authorities to prohibit gatherings during the outbreak of Covid-19 “in any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft, any moveable structure and any offshore installations and where necessary, to close premises”.
Baroness Chakrabarti said it contained “things that I would never normally countenance with my background and instinct in civil liberties.”
Claiming Labour wanted to provide “constructive and responsible opposition” at a time of crisis, she added: “It contains a number of powers that can be turned on and off, as and when. All of it is subject to human rights act compliance.”
Boris Johnson has said he would not rule out further legal restrictions to prevent people moving around unnecessarily, amid growing speculation of a lockdown in London.
Measures believed to be on the table include the closure of shops, cafes and restaurants in the capital – an acknowledge hotspot for the disease – and forcing all but essential workers to remain in their homes.
Although today’s emergency powers bill is expected to be nodded through, Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to give MPs fresh votes every six months on the legislation.