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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the emergency financial and social package needed to support people, families and business through the covid-19 outbreak.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for accommodating the change that we wanted to make to the Order Paper today to make for a more efficient debate, and to ensure that Prime Minister’s Question Time ran for the extra time that you gave it. In response to what Dean Russell said, I join him in paying tribute to the life of Tristan Garel-Jones, whom I knew very well when he was a Conservative MP. He had an enormous knowledge of Latin America and central America, and spoke very fluent Spanish. He and I would often exchange pleasantries in Spanish in the Tea Room. I send my best regards to his family: “Siento la muerte de Señor Garel-Jones”.
We are holding this debate amid a crisis unlike any other we have experienced in our lifetimes. I hope that the Leader of the House, whom I thank for the kind remarks he made about me, understands how important it is that, in this crisis, democracy is not closed down, but strengthened and enhanced. It is the job of Oppositions to hold the Government to account. I thank my right hon. Friend Valerie Vaz for the kind remarks she made and for the work that she is doing in her role as shadow Leader of the House.
The coronavirus outbreak will have a lasting impact on our economy and our society. Life is never going to be the same again. The immediate task of the Opposition is to help to arrest the spread of the coronavirus and to support the public health efforts that are being made, while being constructively critical where necessary to ensure that there is an improved official response. I thank all hon. Members for the questions they put to the Leader of the House about how the House can continue to operate as it should, even during a recess.
The advice and instructions are crystal clear, so people know precisely what they should and should not do to limit or slow the spread of the virus, but there needs to be detailed guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close. Clear communication from the Government is vital for everybody’s safety. The crisis exposes the vulnerabilities in our economy and our society. Underfunded public services, insecure work and a threadbare social security system all carry a heavy burden, which is usually hidden from public view, but has been thrust into a brutal light by a public health emergency.
The crisis also shows just how dependent we are on one another, and on the many ties of mutual aid woven together that make up the fabric of our society and our communities. We can come out of the crisis with that fabric strengthened if we value and support one another. I pay tribute to all the fantastic people, many of them young people, who are volunteering now to help people going through stress and crisis. Indeed, I met a group last week who were leafleting in my constituency to ensure that everybody gets some help if they need it. Our first duty is to say to all of them: thank you.