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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:54 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 6:54 pm, 23rd March 2020

My hon. Friend is right, so I have managed to fit in the childminding sector and the self-employed in one hit.

I want also to speak about volunteering and the clarity that is needed. There is a great company in my constituency that runs Kimbridge Barn. That is shut, of course, but the company wants to enable its staff to volunteer, whether in the health service or the care sector, or as delivery drivers—it has many vehicles—but it wants clarity as to whether the 80% of salaries that HMRC will underwrite will be applicable if people are effectively outworking in a voluntary capacity.

I also draw attention to the comments made by my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt about whether local government officers should be considering planning applications at the current time. I would also ask whether they should be implementing or imposing parking fines. Those are all areas of regulation that are undertaken by local authorities that are far from an imperative at the current time.

I would like to pay tribute in the voluntary sector to both Southampton Voluntary Services and Unity in Test Valley, who have done some brilliant work pulling together volunteer bureaux and making sure that people in the shielded group will have the support from people in the community who can help deliver medicines and essential shopping.

There is much in the Bill that in ordinary times we would not consider, but I end with one final plea about parliamentary scrutiny. There is as yet no mechanism or ability under Standing Orders for Select Committees such as the Women and Equalities Committee—which has much to scrutinise in the Bill—to meet remotely by video link, by Zoom, by Skype for Business or through any other mechanism. I understand that the Leader of the House will make a statement at some point. I very much hope that he will make sure that, at the very least, the Select Committee structures can work at this time to ensure that measures such as this are held to proper scrutiny, so that we understand how they are impacting on the most vulnerable.