PMQs: ‘Step up now’ Corbyn demands coronavirus action in empty Commons

Posted on Mar 20 2020 - 12:34am by admin

The Prime Minister was challenged by the Labour Party leader less than 24 hours after the Government unveiled a huge £350billion coronavirus rescue plan for the UK economy. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a range of financial measures aimed at securing the economy against the coronavirus impact, including £330billion in loans, £20billion in additional aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for under-pressure retailers and pubs. He promised to go further if the coronavirus situation worsened significantly, and if this bumper financial package doesn’t prove to be enough.

Mr Corbyn told the Commons: “Generations to come will look back on this moment and they will judge us, judge us on the actions we take now.

“Our response must be bold and it must be decisive. The market cannot deliver what is needed, only collective public action led by Government can protect our people and our society.

“And that collective action must not allow, must not allow the burden to fall most on those who lack the resources to come as happened after the financial crash.”

He added: “The health of us all depends on the health of the most vulnerable, so I ask the Prime Minister, will he step up now and not tomorrow and give support to those vulnerable people who live on the margins of society, who are vulnerable themselves and make us all vulnerable, and give them the support and the assurance that they are desperately searching for today?”

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PMQs LIVE: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will clash over coronavirus (Image: SKY NEWS)

The Prime Minister replied: “Indeed I can Mr Speaker and that’s why we’ve announced another £500 million to go straight into councils to help them immediately with the needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable.”

Mr Johnson revealed the UK will step up coronavirus action by testing up to 25,000 per day.

He also said Britain is “much closer” to having a generally available test to determine whether someone has had coronavirus. 

The Prime Minister said: “We are prioritising testing of NHS staff for the obvious reason that we want them to be able to look after everybody else with confidence that they’re not transmitting the disease and this country is actually far ahead of many other comparable countries in testing huge numbers of people.

“We’re increasing our tests from 5,000 to 10,000 a day and it may be of interest to the House to know that we are getting much closer to having a generally available test which will determine whether or not you have had the disease and that will truly be of huge benefit to this country in tackling the outbreak.”

FOLLOW EXPRESS.CO.UK FOR LIVE UPDATES FROM PMQS:

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PMQs LIVE: Jeremy Corbyn attacked the Government’s response over the coronavirus outbreak (Image: PARLIAMENTLIVE.TV)

12.32pm update: PM rejects pressure to extend Brexit transition period

DUP MP for North Down Stephen Farry said: “Defeating the coronavirus must be the top, indeed the only priority, for the forseeable future. There’s already huge anxiety across the UK, businesses are facing unprecedented challenge and uncertainty.

“So regardless of Leave or Remain, how quickly will the Prime Minister recognise the inevitable and seek at least a one-year extension to the Brexit implementation process?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Our priority is to deal with the coronavirus epidemic and the other matter that he mentions has already, as he will know, been legislated for.”

12.26pm update: Boris criticised for coronavirus response – ‘Time to act is now’ 

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for Tooting, said: “We are inunprecendetred times. I would like to know: where was the forward planning?

“Where is the testing for medics? Why are we waiting so long for mass testing?

“Why are social distancing measurers just suggestions.”

She urged Mr Johnson to “put party loyalty aside” and to “scale up the response”.

The MP concluded: “Without good leadership, people in this country will start to panic. The time to act is now.”

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PMQs LIVE: Boris Johnson revealed the UK is stepping up coronavirus testing (Image: PARLIAMENTLIVE.TV)

12.19pm update: Johnson attacked over job losses ‘happening now’ from coronavirus outbreak

The SNP’s Westminster leader said: “Thousands of people are already losing their jobs, it’s happening today. Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

“We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills, they are worried about keeping a roof over their head.

“In the last financial crisis the banks were bailed out but ordinary people were not.

“Prime Minister you have it within your power to protect people’s incomes and provide them with peace of mind.”

Mr Johnson agreed to hold talks with supporters of the universal income scheme, adding: “I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

“It is very important that as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and everybody else that no-one – whatever their income – should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case.”

12.17pm update: Decision to close schools to be taken ‘imminently’

Boris Johnson told the Commons the Government will be making further decisions “imminently” over whether to close schools due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He said: “The House (of Commons) should expect further decisions to be taken imminently on schools and how to make sure that we square the circle both of making sure that we stop the spread of the disease but also of making sure that we relieve as much as we can pressure on our National Health Service.”

12.15pm update: Corbyn demands Johnson ‘step up now’ over coronavirus response

The Labour leader said: “Generations to come will look back on this moment and they will judge us, judge us on the actions we take now.

“Our response must be bold and it must be decisive. The market cannot deliver what is needed, only collective public action led by Government can protect our people and our society.

“And that collective action must not allow, must not allow the burden to fall most on those who lack the resources to come as happened after the financial crash.”

He added: “The health of us all depends on the health of the most vulnerable, so I ask the Prime Minister, will he step up now and not tomorrow and give support to those vulnerable people who live on the margins of society, who are vulnerable themselves and make us all vulnerable, and give them the support and the assurance that they are desperately searching for today?”

The Prime Minister replied: “Indeed I can Mr Speaker and that’s why we’ve announced another £500 million to go straight into councils to help them immediately with the needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable.”

12.12pm update: UK ‘much closer’ to having available test to determine whether someone has coronavirus

Jeremy Corbyn said: “NHS staff and those working in the care sector are on the front line of caring for patients suffering from coronavirus. However, sadly, those workers have no idea if they’re actually transmitting the virus themselves.

“They may not be obviously suffering from it but they could still be transmitting it and if they’re ill or not, when they return on the front line, what effect it will have. So can the Prime Minister please explain why the Government isn’t prioritising the testing of all health care staff, both those in the NHS and those doing such a vital job in the care sector?”

Mr Johnson said: “Well in point of fact, we are prioritising testing of NHS staff for the obvious reason that we want them to be able to look after everybody else with confidence that they’re not transmitting the disease and this country is actually far ahead of many other comparable countries in testing huge numbers of people.

“We’re increasing our tests from 5,000 to 10,000 a day and it may be of interest to the House to know that we are getting much closer to having a generally available test which will determine whether or not you have had the disease and that will truly be of huge benefit to this country in tackling the outbreak.”

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PMQs LIVE: Ian Blackford attacked the Prime Minister over job losses ‘happening now’ (Image: PARLIAMENTLIVE.TV)

12.10pm update: Legislation to be brought forward to help protect private renters from eviction

Jeremy Corbyn said: “Yesterday, the Chancellor unfortunately offered nothing to the 20 million people living in rented homes, including 3 million households with children.

“They’re worried, they’re worried sick that they can’t pay their rent if they get ill, lose pay or feel they need to self-isolate.

“It is in the interests of public health, of the health of all of us, that people don’t feel forced to go to work in order to avoid eviction when they know themselves they may be spreading this terrible disease.

“So will the Prime Minister now confirm that the Government’s emergency legislation will protect private renters from eviction?”

Mr Johnson responded: “I can indeed confirm that we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, that is one thing we will do, but it is also important as we legislate that we do not simply pass on the problem so we’ll also be taking steps to protect other actors in the economy.”

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PMQs LIVE: Rosena Allin-Khan also criticised the Government response to the coronavirus outbreak (Image: PARLIAMENTLIVE.TV)

12.07pm update: PM warns coronavirus outbreak is ‘national emergency’ – more measures to be introduced

Mr Johnson says: “It’s only right that when we’re asking people to take action to isolate themselves, whether they have the disease or a member of their household has the disease, if we’re asking the public to take steps which jeopardise businesses, causes people to risk losing their jobs, it’s absolutely right that whatever their circumstances we should ensure workers get the support they need.

“So in addition to the package of business support that the Chancellor outlined yesterday, we will be working with the unions, working with colleagues across the House, we will be bringing forward further measures to support workers of all kinds throughout this crisis.”

12.05pm update: UK to step up coronavirus testing

Boris Johnson tells an almost empty House of Commons the UK will step up coronavirus action by testing up to 25,000 per day.

Jeremy Corbyn said: “The World Health Organisation said test, test, test and we should be testing, I believe, on an industrial scale.”

He said 10,000 tests per day is “nowhere near even the number of people working in the NHS and the care sector”.

The Labour leader added: “It is a massive undertaking and I wish there was a greater sense of urgency from the Government in getting this testing available for all staff.

“NHS staff are obviously on the front line and many are scared because the guidance has been changed to say they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for patients.”

“We shouldn’t be scaring doctors and nurses – is there a policy for them to have full protective equipment or not? Because I believe it should be the case.”

Boris Johnson replied: “On testing, to reassure him, we’re moving up to 25,000 a day.”

12.02pm update: Corbyn thanks MPs for following coronavirus advice

The Labour leader thanks ministers for their “responsible approach” in sitting a “suitable distance apart to avoid cross-fertilisation of this horrible disease”.

He says: “Today people are mourning the loss of loved ones.

“Many more will be suffering from the effects of coronavirus, including those already losing work or losing their jobs and worried about whether they can keep a roof over their heads.”

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PMQs LIVE: There are just a handful of ministers present in the House of Commons (Image: SKY NEWS)

12pm update: PMQs begins – but unlike anything seen before 

This week’s Prime Minister’s Questions has started in the House of Commons – but the usually rowdy session will be lacking. 

Just a handful of MPs have joined the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn in order to follow official Govermnet advice amid the coronavirus outbreak.

11.30am update: Johnson, Corbyn and only 15 MPs to be present during PMQs – ‘Eerie’ feeling

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and 15 other MPs will be the only people present in the House of Commons during PMQs.

Deputy Chief Whip Steve Andrew has issued the following notice: “In order to ensure that we follow advice being given to the public, it has been decided that only people on the Order Paper should be in the Chamber for both Northern Ireland and Prime Minister’s Questions.

“We respectfully ask you to adhere to this message.”

Sky News Political Editor Beth Rigby: “There will be 15 MPs the PM and Jeremy Corbyn. How eerie it will feel.

“But govt has to practice what it preaches in regard to distancing.

“We are really on war footing.”

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