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Tue, 27 October 2020

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By Lord Morris
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Commons bosses say there are 'no plans' to suspend Parliament over coronavirus crisis

Commons bosses say there are 'no plans' to suspend Parliament over coronavirus crisis
3 min read

There are currently "no plans" to suspend Parliament in response to the mounting coronavirus crisis, it has been confirmed.


The commissions of the House of Lords and House of Commons, which oversee the running of Parliament, gave the business-as-usual signal after suggestions both chambers could be forced to shut their doors to slow the spread of the virus.

It came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that the number of people in the UK to die from the virus has risen to four. 

A spokesperson for the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said: "The trust can confirm that a patient in their 70s being treated for underlying health conditions has died. The patient had tested positive for Covid-19."

Number 10 confirmed last week it was in talks with parliamentary authorities about a plan of action if the outbreak continues to get worse.

The Times reported that this could involve closing Parliament for the Easter recess and not opening again until after the summer.

Some MPs have meanwhile called for the introduction of conference calls and electronic voting to cut the need for travel to Westminster.

But, in a joint statement, Parliamentary bosses said: "The Commissions of both Houses met today to discuss Parliament’s response to Coronavirus. There are no plans to suspend Parliament."

They added: "We continue to act entirely in line with the advice of Public Health England and the Speakers and political leadership of both Houses are keeping the situation under constant review."

The statement came as the European Parliament confirmed it would be shortening its working week, curbing votes and debating only "urgent topics", according to the Parliament's first vice-president Mairead McGuinness.

Pressed by Labour's Harriet Harman on the "nuclear option" of closing down Parliament, Mr Hancock told the Commons: "I think that Parliamentary accountability is incredibly important. I will be doing all that I can to make sure Parliament stays open through this process."

'PREMATURE'

The UK government has said it is continuing the "containment" phase of its response to the coronavirus, with no moves yet to implement "social distancing" measures such as shutting schools and curbing public get-togethers.

Boris Johnson on Monday chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency committee, with a spokeperson for the Prime Minister acknowledging that Covid-19 - which 319 people have now tested poisitive for in the UK - "is going to spread in a significant way".

But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said talk of cancelling major sporting fixtures is "very premature", with ministers "nowhere near" emulating decisions made by other European countries. 

The Six Nations rugby tournament has been heavily disrupted due to the global outbreak, top-level football matches in Italy are being played behind closed doors, and the start of the Formula One season faces continued uncertainty.

Mr Dowden said: "There is a possibility it could happen but we’re very clear at the moment it is not the case, and I wouldn’t expect that to be for some time.”

And he said: "In all of this we’re being driven by the facts and the evidence and the science, guided by the Chief Medical Officer."

Labour on Monday urged the Government to step up its response to the crisis in a bid to help small businesses hit by turmoil on the markets.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: "Whatever criticisms people may have of Gordon Brown’s policy strategy in the banking crisis, nobody can question the international leadership he showed and the focus and determination he brought to dealing with those events globally.

"I regret that we have not seen that leadership, commitment, indeed political, diplomatic and indeed managerial ability from either the Prime Minister or the Chancellor."

The Labour frontbencher added: "I just say gently, someone needs to get a grip."

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