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My Lords, yesterday I made a Statement about Parliament’s response to the spread of Covid-19. Yesterday evening, the Government issued new advice; it is right that we respond by taking further action here in Westminster.
As the Prime Minister has stated, we are all now involved in the national fight-back against the virus. Parliament will continue to sit—that is important—but the way we operate will have to change. In addition to the measures we announced last week about official travel and access to the Parliamentary Estate, non-essential access to the Parliamentary Estate for non-passholders will now cease. Access to the public galleries and side galleries of both Chambers will now be restricted to use by Members only. Non-passholders will not be admitted to observe Select Committee proceedings, but witnesses will still be able to attend. Democratic access tours arranged by Members will be cancelled, and no further bookings will be taken. The parliamentary education centre will close, educational and school visits will cease, and no further visits will be arranged. There will be certain changes to the catering provision on the Parliamentary Estate. Further details will be communicated by the Administration later today.
Copies of my letter, together with details of these new arrangements, are now available in the Printed Paper Office. Mr Speaker and I, together with our commissions, will keep arrangements under constant review. I thank you once again for your continued co-operation.
I just want to add something. The Government have also issued specific advice about social distancing for those aged over 70 and those with specific underlying health conditions. Obviously, that has particular implications for Members of this House. I want to emphasise one point: no one should consider it their duty to be here in these circumstances. As parliamentarians, we also have a duty to show leadership and heed the advice of the public health experts. In my view, Public Health England, the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser are serving our nation exceptionally well. I ask that everyone now reflects on their own situation in the light of their advice and in the broader public interest.