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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 4:01 pm, 23rd March 2020

The answer is as soon as the tests we are buying are available. Expanding testing is absolutely critical to everything we are doing.

This part of the Bill also covers other mission-critical parts of public services, not just the NHS, including schools, borders, justice and national security. The Bill empowers schools, for instance, to respond pragmatically to this situation, including the ability to change teacher ratios, to adapt school meal standards and temporarily to relax provisions for those with special educational needs. The Bill also gives the Home Secretary the power to close and suspend operations at UK ports and airports, powers that will deployed in circumstances only where staff shortages at the Border Force pose a real and significant threat to the UK’s border security. It expands on the availability of video and audio links in court proceedings, so that justice can continue to function without the need for participants to attend in person. To ensure that the Treasury can transact business at all times, the Bill makes it possible for a single Minister or Treasury commissioner to sign instruments or act on behalf of other commissioners.

At a time of unprecedented social disruption, it is also essential to maintain our national security capabilities. The Bill allows temporary judicial commissioners to be appointed at the request of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and for an increase in the maximum time allowed for an urgent warrant to be reviewed from three to 12 days. That means that vital investigation warrants can continue to be issued, and our security services and police can continue to protect the public.