The new bill includes the emergency registration of health professionals. powers over food supply, events, gatherings and premises as well as provisions to allow court hearings by video and audio link, the protection of residential tenants from eviction, statutory sick pay and the conduct of local authority meetings.
The House of Commons was nearly empty during the debate, with MPs well spread out along their party benches. The debate started at 4pm and ended 8pm; Matt Rodda contributed at 7.37pm.
Mr Rodda supported the comments of former health secretary Jeremy Hunt:
…in which he pointed out the very effective action that has been taken in a number of Asian countries. I associate myself with the thrust of his remarks, which is that we need to take very clear and determined action as fast as possible, given the circumstances. That means obviously much tighter social distancing measures and a much more active approach by the state.
There are examples where action has been taken immediately and it has constrained the spread of the virus. I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has now pivoted: he has listened to the World Health Organisation advice and he has taken the UK on a different track. We have a very narrow window of opportunity to stem the worst of this crisis.
He finished with a request:
Please take on board the need for wider social consent, for effective review mechanisms at six months at a minimum, and for a further ability for Parliament to bring it back within a year, if possible.
The second reading of the bill was agreed without a division and the bill then went to the committee stage. The House of Lords passed the bill on 25 March.
The provisions in the bill may remain in force for a maximum of two years, but they will be subject to a six-monthly parliamentary review.
Parliament has now closed for an extended Easter break until 21 April.
- Hansard: Coronavirus Bill debate
- Coronavirus Bill
- Parliament TV 23 March 2020 (Matt Rodda’s contribution was at 19:37)
- World Health Organisation Coronavirus information
- UK Parliament: How does a bill become law?
- Hansard Online
- Parliament Online
- Register of members interests
- Matt Rodda home page, at Hansard and They Work For You
- MP expenses at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority