Thank you for contacting me about the emergency legislation introduced in response to Coronavirus. First and foremost, I must state that all measures in the Coronavirus Act are temporary and proportionate to the threat we face. They will only be used when absolutely necessary and will remain in place only as long as the situation requires. I welcome the steps in place to review this act on a six-monthly basis to ensure the measures remain appropriate.
The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that there are sufficient levels of staffing available and that they can be deployed where they are most needed. Along with supporting members of the public, limiting the spread of the virus and ensuring the deceased are treated with respect and dignity.
The Government is keen to ensure Parliament plays a role in the formation of Coronavirus regulations. The Government have therefore offered MPs a vote on changes to regulations wherever that is possible and prior to them coming into effect. This relates to measures for both England and the United Kingdom. Whilst it is important that swift action can be taken in order to combat this virus, it is vital that Parliament holds additional opportunities to thoroughly examine new measures where possible.
I appreciate concerns surrounding the power granted by the Coronavirus Act in relation to people who may be infected with Coronavirus. My thanks goes out to all those who have complied with the relevant public health advice and stuck to the rules during this pandemic. The provisions of Schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act seek to ensure that isolation measures can be properly enforced where necessary. This would allow a public health officer or police officer to return individuals to places where they are required to stay, like in the case of breaches of mandatory self-isolation. The act also allows police and immigration officers to make sure that individuals attend testing or treating facilities where they are required to do so.
I believe that it is right that were an infected individual recklessly mixing with vulnerable people and refusing to stop, that something is done about it. But, I also believe that in cases which are less clear cut, that the police are able to exercise their discretion and appeal to peoples sense of responsibility to society. I appreciate that these measures are tough on everyone and I praise all those who comply with them but it is right that these measures are enforced to ensure that the small number of people who do not comply are not putting lives needlessly in danger. However, I am clear that Parliament must keep measures like these under close review and expect them to remain temporary.
In relation to support for the disabled, local authorities are expected to do their level best to meet demand during this period. This legislation in no way removes the duty of care towards individuals at risk of serious neglect or harm. The powers granted under the Coronavirus Act in this area would only be used if demand pressures and workforce illness during the pandemic meant that local authorities were at imminent risk of failing to fulfil their duties and they would only be used for the duration of the emergency. It would ensure that local authorities could continue to deliver the best possible care services during the peak and protect the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.
Finally, I understand that there are concerns surrounding measures relating to cremation in the Act. Provisions have been included to ensure that individuals choices for family and friends can be adhered to and that families can still access the appropriate support services. I have been reassured by Ministers that there is no reason why someone who wished to be buried would be cremated.
I hope the above is of reassurance to you and please rest assured that I will continue to monitor this issue closely.
EXPIRES ON 24.11.20