Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 19th March 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons 12:30 pm, 19th March 2020

Last night I was due to speak at an event for which more than 300 people had registered but, because of the crisis, the organisers took the event online and all those people were able to participate from the convenience and safety of their own homes. What surprised me was that the hardware I required to do that was none other than the standard issue iPad I was given five years ago by this Parliament. I say that because it convinces me that the technology is available for us to continue to have informed democratic debate without the necessity of having to meet in this Chamber.

Is the Leader of the House considering such procedures? Alongside things such as changing our Standing Orders to reduce the attendance required to make legislation, there are also mechanisms whereby people can represent their constituents and press the case that they want to on behalf of the people who elected them without the necessity to actually attend the Parliament, and I think we need to do a lot more on that.

With regard to the emergency legislation, which we shall see shortly, I wanted to ask a specific point as to whether that will give the Government the scope to take action against some people who are engaged in quite disreputable behaviour at this point in time. While the public response to this crisis has brought out the best in people, there are some instances where it has brought out the worst as well. Many people will be shocked by the fact that there are private medical companies profiteering by charging exorbitant fees for testing at this point in time. I believe such people should be detained and their assets should be commandeered and put to the public good. I wonder whether the emergency legislation will give the Government the powers to act in that way.

With regard to the debate about a universal basic income or a minimum income guarantee, which many people feel is essential to avoid perhaps millions of people approaching the Department for Work and Pensions for benefit claims, the Prime Minister gave a guarantee yesterday that he would meet with others and bring forward proposals on that. When might we expect a statement to the House from the Prime Minister on that, and when will such a meeting take place?

Finally, it seems rather surreal and fanciful to be planning to meet not just next week in full, but the week after. Should we not now be taking steps to wind down our formal processes and go to the Easter recess at the end of next week? Would that not be the sensible course of action and indicate leadership to everyone else in the country?