My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, on a quality maiden speech, which has whetted our appetites for his future contributions.
It is a disgrace that the Government have consistently failed to give Parliament time to debate regulations such as these before they come into effect; it is a disgrace that Parliament has acquiesced in this; and it is a disgrace that both the Government and Parliament have agreed on measures to curtail freedoms way beyond those needed to tackle the pandemic and for which there is no scientific evidence. The ban on outlawed demonstrations, for example, lacks any evidential justification. Not one of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations throughout the world resulted in a detectable spread of infections. We saw at the weekend how such ill-thought-out legislation put the police in an intolerable dilemma.
The measures in these regulations are desirable and necessary, but the justification for stopping evictions is economic and social, not medical. It is to prevent the evictions of people who are unable to pay their rent because they have been prevented from working. Yet the legislation pretends that it is necessary to stop evictions simply to avoid the spread of the virus. That is palpable nonsense. Because of lockdown, we would have wanted to prevent evictions even if we had absolute certainty that they would not result in the spread of infections—just to prevent hardship.
I take it that the assertion by the Minister in the preamble to the legislation that it is necessary purely for medical reasons is to justify bringing this measure under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. This provides further evidence that we should be operating under the Civil Contingencies Act, not under the control of disease Act. If we were, Parliament would have had far greater control of these matters and the measures would have been carried out on a cross-United Kingdom basis.