More than 26 million people in the UK have now received their all-important first dose of a Covid vaccine that evidence shows offers the vast bulk of the protection against Covid, with Gloucestershire leading the way in getting as many people protected quickly.
With this good vaccine news, many across the Forest and the country are rightly asking why, given that we have vaccinated such a large proportion of the groups vulnerable to Covid, we have tougher restrictions than last Summer, when we hadn’t even approved a single vaccine?
This week, MPs will be asked to renew most of the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act for a further six months until October. This will not affect the furlough scheme and other financial support packages, which will continue in place automatically.
The Coronavirus Act, according to the Government’s own description of it, contains “extraordinary measures that do not apply in normal circumstances”. For any and every temporary measure that the Government wishes to retain, the burden is on them to set out a very clear justification.
When announcing the roadmap out of lockdown, the Prime Minister promised that it would “guide us cautiously but irreversibly towards reclaiming our freedoms” by 21 June, and that we are on a “one-way road to freedom”.
Retaining most temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act until October, however, does not appear to be not consistent with this pledge and will raise justifiable concerns that restrictions will be reintroduced in the Autumn.
The Labour Party and other Opposition parties continue to be completely absent from the pitch on this matter, they’re not even on the sidelines, and will once again give the Government a blank cheque this week.
It is therefore up to my colleagues and I to ask the reasonable questions of Ministers about why significant powers are going to be extended to October - 3 months beyond the end of the roadmap.
The health of our democracy depends on Ministers being asked reasonable questions about the laws they seek to pass, and that is what I will continue to do this week ahead of important Commons votes on Thursday.