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'Tyranny is a habit' – local MPs rebel against vote to extend Covid powers

Sir Christopher Chope and Sir Desmond Swayne voted against the extension
Sir Christopher Chope and Sir Desmond Swayne voted against the extension

LOCAL MPs Sir Desmond Swayne and Sir Christopher Chope were among dozens of who rebelled and voted against a six-month extension to coronavirus restrictions.

The New Forest West and Christchurch members, both Conservatives and outspoken critics of lockdown and its impacts on individual liberties and the country’s finances, joined 74 other MPs to vote against extending the Coronavirus Act until the end of September.

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis chose to abstain.

Designed to contain the spread of the virus, the bill grants the government wide-ranging powers to shut down pubs and detain individuals deemed to be at risk.

It has been in place since March 2020, and the extension to the bill was promoted by health minister Matt Hancock. In the House of Commons he pointed out it had enabled the government to bring forward measures to help people, such as the furlough system.

He also said not all of the provisions in the legislation – which passed comfortably by 483 votes to 76 – were necessary and would be deleted when no longer necessary.

However, his remarks did little to appease some MPs – and Sir Desmond was one of the most vociferous opponents. “Tyranny is a habit and we haven’t quite kicked it,” he said.

“By any measure the emergency is over and the hugely successful vaccination campaign is the guarantee against its return. Yet the government seeks to retain powers to control aspects of our lives together with the punishment regime for those who disobey.”

Others questioned the continuation of restrictions amid the planned lifting of the lockdown – which begins on Monday.

In the vote, a total of 36 Tory MPs rebelled against their own government, alongside 21 from Labour and others from the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and DUP.

Explaining his abstention, Dr Lewis told the A&T: “I would reluctantly have voted for an extension if it had been limited to the published timetable out of lockdown restrictions.

“As it was for a much longer period – a full l six months – I chose to abstain. The result of the voting was a foregone conclusion, given Labour’s intention to vote with the government.”

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