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Amendment 13

Part of Coronavirus Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour 2:30 pm, 25th March 2020

My Lords, I too support the amendment and hope that the Minister will make appropriate noises about why this matters. Around the world, legislation is being passed in other countries that does not have these kinds of protections attached to it. We are seeing legislation going through in Hungary and, I am afraid, elsewhere, which will greatly erode the rights of the people living in those places. I strongly encourage the Government not only to say that the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act will be conformed to, but to ensure that those are firm instructions given to all those who will be exercising powers under this exceptional piece of legislation.

Earlier today, I sought to insinuate into this debate something about people in prison. I was surprised to find that there was no real reference to prisons in the legislation. But this morning it was mentioned that there is a problem inside the prisons—a number of people have already been diagnosed as having Covid-19—and so people are being confined to their cells. It was indicated that decisions might be made about releasing certain people from custody. Again, I ask that this is done in a way that conforms to the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act, and that real steps are taken with respect to fairness. I ask also that people in prison—who are not getting access to their families in the way that most people who are self-isolating can, through the internet and so on—are given the mechanisms to do that: to have virtual meetings and other mechanisms for contact with their families. At the moment, there is misinformation inside the prison system, and it is likely to cause a great deal of unrest. I urge the Government to be clear about the importance of conforming to human rights and equality standards.