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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda 6:31 pm, 23rd March 2020

May I warmly commend Robert Largan, who I think made a magnificent speech? He delivered it with simple earnestness and a dignity that will commend him to many Members of this House. It is a sad moment, is it not, when one thinks that being an MP is the most secure job around. He was quite right to say not only what he said about no party having a monopoly on truth—ideological purity rarely does anybody any favours—but what he said about being an independently minded Member. I warmly commend everything that he said.

However, I completely despair of some of the scenes that I have seen from our fellow citizens over the last few days. The panic buying—the hoarding, frankly—of essential goods, which will therefore be denied to many people who most need them, including our key workers, is a disgrace. It is born out of selfishness and it must stop. People ignoring advice—because somehow or other they think that they will be immune to the disease or that it will only affect some other people—is, again, an instance of massive selfishness, and it really must stop. I am sick and tired of people saying that they know better than all the experts. The number of armchair epidemiologists and virologists in this country seems to have grown dramatically without any evidence of qualification.

I hate the idea that there are companies that are actively profiteering in this country. It was a criminal offence in the war and it should be a criminal offence now. I hate the scam merchants who are going round preying on the vulnerable at the moment, which is why it is all the more important that local councils run proper schemes for volunteer forces, so that if somebody knocks at the door, an elderly person can know that they are getting the right person.

I hate the way that some of our police have been treated in the last few days—spat at and coughed over deliberately, as an offensive weapon as it were, when they have merely been trying to prevent people from gathering, in the way that the Government have been advising. This goes back to what we have been trying to do for the last few years to stop assaults on our emergency workers, and I bet my bottom dollar that there will be more assaults on emergency workers during this process. This must come to an end. We as a nation must show the best side of our humanity, not the worst side of our humanity.

And I am sorry, but to those politicians in various different countries around the world who have somehow or other tried to dismiss the experts, including those who have dismissed the idea of vaccination over the last few years, I say this: you are dangerous and you must stop it. People will die because of your misinformation.

This is, of course, a draconian Bill, for two main reasons. First, it suspends lots of protections for individuals, such as who is able to certify a death. I know why the provision is there, but, frankly, the idea that in the end it could end up just being a funeral director certifying a death is worrying, let alone the provisions in relation to sectioning under the Mental Health Act 1983. The Bill also gives Ministers the power to impose significant restrictions, which we all know are draconian. On top of that, the Attorney General rang me—I am grateful for the phone call the other day—