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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:37 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 7:37 pm, 23rd March 2020

I will be brief, given the time, but it is quite clear that we face the most serious and sustained crisis—something that is, quite simply, new to many of us and that our generation has never faced before.

I would like to commend the speech by the former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in which he pointed out the very effective action that has been taken in a number of Asian countries. I associate myself with the thrust of his remarks, which is that we need to take very clear and determined action as fast as possible, given the circumstances. That means obviously much tighter social distancing measures and a much more active approach by the state. It also requires, as he pointed out and other speakers have said, the need for effective PPE and other supplies to get to our hospitals as soon as possible. I should say that I have heard of cases in my own area—not in my constituency, but nearby—where there are real concerns about this.

We do need to look at what works and what has worked around the world in tackling this dreadful problem. There are examples where action has been taken immediately and it has constrained the spread of the virus. I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has now pivoted: he has listened to the World Health Organisation advice and he has taken the UK on a different track. We have a very narrow window of opportunity to stem the worst of this crisis. We have seen what has happened in Italy and in many other countries on the TV news, and we do not want to see that in this country. I would urge everyone to support the measures that are being taken forward.

However—I am conscious of time—I have some reservations about this Bill. I would like to echo the points made by my hon. Friend Jonathan Ashworth and by other Members around the House about the need for consent, for protection of the needs of vulnerable people and for greater thought to be put in. I urge the Government to take on board the points made across the House today. The spirit of the debate has been extremely constructive. The Minister is nodding and I know she is thinking about this matter. Please take on board the need for wider social consent, for effective review mechanisms at six months at a minimum, and for a further ability for Parliament to bring it back within a year, if possible. I urge Ministers to consider that. I am conscious of time and grateful for the opportunity to speak.