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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:52 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General 7:52 pm, 23rd March 2020

I do not have a lot of time left, so if I cannot address some points now, I will try to address them in the Committee stage. I would like to briefly put on the record, echoing the sentiments that every Member has expressed in this debate, my thanks to our care and health professionals, the police, the military, volunteers and everyone who is working so hard to combat this crisis. I also wish to thank all hon Members who have contributed on Second Reading. The key points are: that the vast majority of powers in the Bill will not be live at Royal Assent; that parts of this Bill and those powers can be switched on and off—they do not stand or fall together; and the powers the Bill creates can be switched on and off as well. That addresses many of the points that have been made by some Members. We are only taking powers that we need. Many Members, including Sarah Jones, raised points about renters and the self-employed, but the Bill today is about the powers we need to take now and not about every aspect of our response.

I am now going to deal with the shadow Secretary of State’s points. I thank him for his approach to working with the Government on all aspects of this response. What he says on social distancing and the offer of support he has made for further measures is noted, and I thank him for that. He asks about EU joint procurement. Not all member states are part of that procurement system, and we have chosen other routes. He asks about car parking, and I believe there are ongoing discussions with trusts about that and about pay for nurses taking time out of training. They will be paid in accordance with the terms and conditions of those roles.

I want to turn to the issue of social care, which was mentioned by many Members, including Catherine West, my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, and the hon. Members for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana), for Newport West (Ruth Jones) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes). I fully understand why this is such an issue. Carers, adults in social care, parents of children with learning disabilities and others often feel that they have a fight on their hands at the best of times, and we are heading for what I hope will not be the worst of times. I understand their concerns around that and wish to provide them with reassurance. The purpose of these powers is to protect the most vulnerable when we come under great strain in these systems.

Clause 13 is live on Royal Assent, but clauses 14 and 9 are not. They need further regulations in order to commence. The Minister for Care, my hon. Friend Helen Whately, is doing an amazing job of ensuring that we understand what is going on around the country. If these powers are switched on, we will understand what is happening, taking data from the CQC and from other areas as well. I think I can provide the assurance that hon. Members are seeking on that, and I am happy to do so at length in Committee, if I get the chance.

My right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt mentioned personal protection, as did many other hon. Members. We are working with business, and there has been an incredible response from industry—injection moulders and others—to produce more PPE. The strains in the system are not to do with the volume, but the distribution, but military assistance and other assistance has been stood up to get that to where it needs to be.

I am sure that hon. Members will hear more in the future about testing and the new end-to-end testing scheme that has been put in place, and about mobile phone data. My right hon. Friend mentioned Dr Tedros, and we should all pay tribute to his efforts and those of his team.

The hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, along with my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey, mentioned the “Transforming Care” aspects. I know that the schemes that my hon. Friend the Minister for Care has put in place, which monitor referrals and other such data, will give us confidence that we can understand what is happening in the system.

Ian Blackford emphasised the importance of our working together and that we needed to put economic measures in place. I would say to him that we have to recognise that people who are travelling to other parts of the country might be doing that with the best of intentions. He is right, and we are right, to ask them to follow the chief medical officer’s advice, and that is why we need to be clear about that advice, and about staying at home and the support systems that are around people in their communities—