A fortnight ago, MPs overwhelming voted to renew the Coronavirus Act, which provides the Government with emergency powers that allow it to enact restrictive laws without the direct consent of Parliament. Nevertheless, with more than 80 Conservative MPs threatening to rebel, the Government conceded that they would hold votes in Parliament before the introduction of new measures where possible.
The Coronavirus Act allows the Government to continue to implement restrictions with a reduced level of Parliamentary scrutiny, yet the majority (54%) of the British public do not think the Government is currently taking the right measures to address the coronavirus pandemic, while a third (33%) think it is.
The Government recently introduced a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants. While not as drastic as Nicola Surgeon’s recent ban on the serving of alcohol indoors, the curfew has been criticised by the hospitality sector and redundancies have been announced at several large pub chains. On the other hand, some have suggested that the curfew will assist in limiting the spread of the virus and is a better option than fully shutting the pubs, as happened in March.
Almost half (48%) of the British public back the Government’s imposition of the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, with only around a quarter (24%) opposing.
The majority (63%) of those that think the Government is taking the right steps to address the pandemic support the 10pm curfew, as does a plurality (42%) of those who do not think it is taking the right measures. While a majority of the British public are sceptical of the Government’s plan to combat coronavirus, they are supportive of the 10pm curfew.
Nevertheless, with limited parliamentary scrutiny of new measures, and fewer Downing Street coronavirus briefings, the justification behind these new measures are less transparent. Labour Leader Keir Starmer has challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to release the scientific evidence on which the decision to implement the 10pm curfew was made.
The majority (54%) of the British public acknowledge that the Government has not provided sufficient scientific justification for the 10pm closing time of pubs and restaurants, while less than a third (29%) think it has.
Almost half (48%) of those that think the Government is taking the right measures in the pandemic think the Government has provided sufficient scientific justification for the 10pm curfew, while the vast majority (68%) of those that do not think the Government is taking the right measures do not think the justification has been provided. Polling conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies at the end of June found that 62% thought the Government had done a good job at providing the public with up-to-date information, in part due to the daily coronavirus briefings that included both ministers and scientific officers. The briefings were popular with the British public then, and with the new measures being continually introduced, could be a useful mechanism to support the Government in communicating the scientific justification for new measures.
The Coronavirus Act may have passed in Parliament, yet 62% of the British public agree that Parliament should be consulted first before new coronavirus restrictions are announced and implemented.
Significantly, a majority of those that think the Government are taking the right measures (60%) still believe that the Government should consult Parliament first. Even the majority (55%) of those that voted Conservative in the last election agree that there should be more Parliamentary consultation. Regardless of how one views the current Government’s performance, most would like to see Parliament having more of a say on new measures.
However, the public are tied as to whether the Government has to consult Parliament: 43% think the Government should be allowed to implement new coronavirus restrictions immediately–as granted by the Coronavirus Act–while 40% think the Government should wait until Parliament has approve the specific restrictions.
The public are also starkly divided as to the potential effect of increased influence from Members of Parliament: 41% think Members of Parliament having more of a say in coronavirus restrictions will improve the Government’s decision-making, while 38% think it will slow down the Government’s decision-marking.
However, the majority (52%) of those that currently think the Government is implementing the correct measures to tackle the pandemic think allowing Members of Parliament to have more of a say will slow down the Government’s decision-making, while half (49%) of those that currently think the Government is not implementing the correct measures believe there will be an improvement with increased influence from MPs.
Overall, the public do not think the Government is taking the correct measures to handle the pandemic, yet are supportive of the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants. Nevertheless, the majority acknowledge that the Government has not provided sufficient scientific justification for the curfew. Given the evident correlation between thinking the Government is taking the right measures and thinking it has provided an adequate scientific justification, the Government may wish to consider increasing communication through more briefings and marketing campaigns to the level seen much earlier in the pandemic. The majority of the public, regardless of views on the measures which attempt to control the pandemic, would like to see Parliament being consulted before new restrictions are implemented, but are split on whether the Government should have to consult Parliament and what the ultimate effect of greater MP involvement would be.