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Amendment 1

Part of Coronavirus Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 12:06 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat 12:06 pm, 25th March 2020

My Lords, my Amendment 2 is also in this group and I want to speak briefly to it. I start by drawing the attention of the House to my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Amendment 2 is a probing amendment—a very friendly one, as I hope the Minister understands—regarding something that I foresee.

It is clear from discussions with my local government colleagues across the country that there are a number of issues in respect of which local communities are turning to their local authority as the nearest the port of government, as they see it—one they recognise and have a relationship with. Some councils can deal with many of the things that people are turning to them for; others would like to but do not have the powers to do so. As this public health challenge becomes increasingly severe, the demands on local government will be immense. Local authority employees, who are doing a great job up and down the country, will not be immune from getting the coronavirus, which, as I said yesterday, will also affect services not related directly it, such as refuse collection or environmental health; or they may not have equipment such as lorries or vans to deal with issues.

They will need a general power of direction—some way to say to other organisations within their jurisdiction, “We can’t negotiate; we can’t plead with you. This is a crisis. We need you to act. We need to requisition certain items, personnel or services off you.” I ask the Minister this: if the Government cannot accept this amendment, what arrangements will be in place—or what regulations will come forward in a very speedy way—to enable local government to best deal with the issues that will inevitably come to rest on its shoulders?