Coronavirus Bill Debate

23rd March 2020

Andrew Mitchell raises concerns at two-year provision of the Bill and calls for six-month review to be serious chance to improve the Bill.

 

I am sure the whole House will want to support my right hon. Friend and the provisions in the Bill. I just want to reinforce two points. The first is that I was very concerned to see the two-year provision, which is why I put my name to new clauses 1 and 6, and I am very pleased to hear what the Government have said about the six-month review. Notwithstanding what he just said about the period of time in which this has been produced, it is a heroic effort— 321 pages of legislation which may well be subject to changes in the next few weeks and months as this crisis develops. I hope, therefore, that he will see the six-month review not just as a rubber-stamping effort, but as a chance to improve the legislation, should it require that improvement.

We could consider that. The proposal is to have a debate and vote as opposed to a whole new piece of legislation and, of course, only to renew it if the measures in the Bill are still necessary. Then, of course, they will fall after two years. I understand the concern of my right hon. Friend and his wisdom. I know that as Secretary of State he dealt with some of these issues, albeit not here but around the world, and he knows the sorts of measures that are needed, which are contained in the Bill.

Hansard

Video

...

 

The hon. Gentleman may well be right about the Civil Contingencies Act, because the drafter of that legislation has confirmed that that is his understanding—at least, I believe that to be the case. I agree that two years is too long. I would have preferred the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) to be adopted. I do not think there is any sense in the Committee that we want to vote on this. We want to put the Government on notice that the length of time is a matter of concern and we must have a chance to review the legislation; the Government appear to be moving towards agreeing to six-monthly reviews. Although I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the matters that he has sought to enshrine in his amendment, I think that that would encapsulate the will of the Committee.

I have absolutely no intention of dividing the House. The nation does not need dividing and I do not think the Committee needs dividing on these matters either. I am grateful to the Government, who have tried to be in as listening a mood as they possibly can. My anxiety, however, is that the Government’s amendment, as tabled, is defective and simply does not work. My anxiety is that in six months’ time the Government will present us with a take it or leave it argument—you’ve either got the whole Act and all the provisions carrying on for another six months or you’ve got to leave it—and retain those powers for another 18 months.

Hansard

...

 

So that I am certain that I have understood the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, is he saying that once the immediate crisis is over anyone who has been sectioned under that regime should immediately be subject to the existing regime?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, that should apply not just in the mental health sphere. If these are truly temporary measures, that has to apply across a range of measures.

Hansard