The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ready to defy rebellious Tory MPs by launching a massive new clampdown on law-defying citizens who disregards coronavirus quarantine regulations as police will start going from house to house, knocking on doors in areas with high infection record to make sure people that are advised into self-isolation are obeying the law.
NHS Track and Trace workers will also increase the rate at which they call those in quarantine to check whether they are staying home. This comes as Cabinet ministers said Boris Johnson is determined to go ahead with the clampdown to curb a second wave of the coronavirus despite disagreement by some Tory MPs who argued that the new measures are wrong moves.
The UK government is set to kick start its dramatic escalation of the COVID-19 surveillance today with a new quarantine law coming into force which carries fines ranging from £1,000 for the first offenders of self-isolation to up to £10,000 for serial offenders.
“These new measures are about saving lives. Everyone must take personal responsibility and self-isolate if they test positive or if told to do so by the NHS Test and Trace. For those who fail to do so, the police will enforce the law. These new fines are a clear sign that we will not allow those who break the rules to reverse the hard-won progress made by the law-abiding majority,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
To ensure effective compliance of the new law, the government will deploy police officers in areas with high infection rates and among high-risk people based on local intelligence, Whitehall officials have claimed.
A government source, however, hinted that police officers will investigate and prosecute high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance of the new law which came into force last night, although the Tory revolt against the Prime Minister ruling by emergency was increasing.
As at last night, up to 42 Tory MPs had supported an amendment to the renewal of coronavirus regulations which was presented for discussion by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of the party’s backbenchers, designed to give MPs a vote before new rules are imposed.
Sir Graham is expecting more MPs to join the movement and sign his amendment today, while Steve Baker, who’s one of the leading rebels and a former minister, was very sure Mr Johnson will be defeated if a vote goes ahead on the matter on Wednesday this week.
Mr Baker said, “You hear people think that liberty dies – it dies like this with the government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no one can understand,”
“It’s all about MPs having a vote on the government’s policy before it comes into force and takes away people’s civil liberties. MPs have been feeling increasingly helpless as their constituents complain about a real impact on their lives, their jobs, their prosperity, indeed their health, which come from the side effects of COVID-19 measures.
“We are not proposing to take the power from Ministers to decide what’s done or take away the power of business of the House of Commons. We’re just saying that the Government should use the procedure that puts a statutory instrument before the House for a debate and a decision.
“In a sense, I’m saying MPs should be sharing in the dreadful burden of the decision in these circumstances and not just retrospectively being asked to approve what the Government’s done. I’m certain at the moment but, as I say, really we’d prefer to avoid this coming to a division. I’m afraid it’s like the way Parliament works that things happen like this.
“But I back Boris Johnson, I want him to succeed, but we do need to share with the government the burden of decision on these measures and not just come in days or weeks later, retrospectively, perhaps voting on measures which have subsequently been amended.”
Meanwhile, Mr Baker said in a newspaper article yesterday that, “Parliament must take back control.”
One among notable MPs who signed Sir Graham’s amendment yesterday is backbencher Craig Tracey, and he said, “I fully appreciate why the government needed temporary powers to take decisive action in the early days of the virus, but now it is time we have the opportunity to scrutinise future measures before they come into effect.”
But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden insisted yesterday that the government needed powers to act swiftly, while also stating that the rebel claims were slightly overblown.
“I think it’s important in a crisis like this when things are moving very rapidly, that the government has the power to move quickly, and that is the power that the government was given through the initial legislation earlier this year. But then MPs must hold us to account and vote on that, and that is exactly what is happening here.”
While Labour and the Lib Dems are considering voting with Tory rebels on Sir Graham’s amendment, there’re concerns Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle may decline to allow a vote on the amendment.
Mr Johnson’s new coronavirus control regulation will see new financial support of £500 Test and Trace Payment for low-income households advised to self-isolate from today, but that will be low-income earners who cannot work from home and who lose pay as a result of quarantine.
“Anyone can catch coronavirus and anyone can spread it. We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down and protecting our loved ones. As cases rise we must take action, and we are introducing a legal duty to self-isolate when told to do so, with fines for breaches and a new £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who can’t work from home while they are self-isolating.
“These simple steps can make a huge difference to reduce the spread of the virus, but we will not hesitate to put in place further measures if cases continue to rise,” Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Even Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said, “Councils across the country are working at pace to set up new self-isolation support payment schemes and ensure people in their communities have the information and advice they need to stay safe and reduce the spread of the virus.
“Since the start of the pandemic councils have played a crucial role in supporting businesses and their communities, and I want to thank them for their hard work as they roll out this new support for those who need to self-isolate.”
Following the new rules which come into force today, those testing positive for COVID-19 will be required by law to self-isolate for the period ending 10 days after displaying symptoms or after the date of the test if they did not have symptoms, while other members of their household must self-isolate for the period ending 14 days.