Business of the House

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

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 12:30 pm, 19th March 2020

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the tone and the interest of his proposals. Everybody is open to ideas as to how things might be done differently and what the needs are on attendance. Mr Speaker received a letter from the Chair of the Procedure Committee, my right hon. Friend Karen Bradley, that sets out options for how Select Committees may be able to carry on with their important business without meeting in person. Parliament will consider what steps can reasonably be taken to allow things to be done remotely. It may be difficult to recreate the Chamber remotely, but there are certainly options with Select Committees and they are being considered.

The Government share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about people profiteering from the crisis and are aware that some people are behaving extremely well and others are using this as an opportunity. One has heard stories of people charging exorbitant prices for hand sanitiser, loo roll and so on, so the Government are aware of the issue and will act if necessary. As yet, it does not seem to be so widespread a problem as to require Government action, but we are not ignoring the point.

On universal basic income, the Government are willing to consider all ideas. Lots of ideas are coming in. The priority is to proceed with things that can be implemented rapidly and for which systems already exist. It may prove difficult to introduce entirely new systems, but I am sure that the Prime Minister, having said that he is open to meetings on this matter, will prove open to meetings on this matter.

As regards the week after next, the House voted for the recess dates, but it can obviously vote for new recess dates. We want to maintain flexibility, because I cannot make an absolute guarantee that all the emergency legislation that could possibly have been thought of is in the Bill coming before the House today. There may be other things that we need to legislate on, and there is also a demand for scrutiny, so we have to get the balance right. Nothing will be done without consulting the Opposition parties—I emphasise the plural.