Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 7 February 2021

Open Letter To Keir Starmer.

Why has the opposition failed to address the misuse of Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984?

Dear Keir Starmer,

As a resident of Camden I despair at the endless economic and physical ravages inflicted on this borough through government covid policy, followed up with the often heedless measures imposed by Camden council who appear hell-bent on destroying the welfare, livelihood and character of the borough.

Where I realise a similar situation is being played out all over the UK, (and the world) I also hear you, as leader of the UK opposition, often speak of acting in the national interest and holding this government to account. It is in this context that I was re-listening to Lord Jonathan Sumption in a conversation with Telegraph columnists Allison Pearson (from 10th September 2020) that a very important question came to my attention.

In the conversation (which I have linked and partially transcribed below) Lord Sumption explains how the government, since March 2020, have not been using the Coronavirus act to “justify lockdown and the quarantine rules and most of the other regulations”; the actions have been made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 ; which was extensively amended in 2008.

In Lord Sumption’s words:

I do not believe that that act [Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984] confers on the government the powers which the government is purported to exercise because it is a basic principle of the British constitutional law that you cannot invade fundamental rights.

He then warns about governments being too general about what they are up to, something that can never happen when it threatens Liberty:

You’ve got to be specific about it and the reason for that is that if you use general words to justify draconian invasions[erosion] of fundamental rights there’s too big a risk that it will pass unnoticed in the course of the parliamentary process.

This warning rings alarms when considering the constant criticism, in the media and in the street of government being too vague, confused, undecided, using mixed messaging, confused and flip-flopping.

One other worrying point from the following section mentions the limited powers of government through the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and how…

[the] only specific language in the public health act which justifies invasions of liberty relates to people who are believed on reasonable grounds to be infectious.

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