Parliament expected to close on Wednesday evening

Parliament is expected to close on Wednesday evening after emergency laws to deal with the coronavirus have been passed.

MPs will vote to plan for a managed return on Tuesday 21 April, to deal with Budget legislation.

The House of Commons had been due to break for Easter on 31 March.

However, concerns had been raised that keeping Parliament open was contributing to the spread of the virus.

The Scottish Parliament chamber was shut down on Tuesday but MSPs will return on 1 April in order to consider emergency coronavirus legislation.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle doubled the length of Prime Minister’s Questions to an hour, to allow for social distancing on the green benches.

MPs asking questions in the first half of the session filed out of the chamber to make way for the remainder of the MPs who wanted to put questions to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It was Jeremy Corbyn’s final PMQs as Leader of the Opposition. He will stand down as leader of the Labour party on 4 April.

Mr Corbyn urged Mr Johnson to make himself “available for scrutiny” during the parliamentary recess adding “we represent people who are desperately worried about their health and their economic well being”.

Mr Johnson promised to work with the Commons Speaker to ensure Parliament is kept informed.

The Cabinet are expected to continue to meet via video conferencing.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Westminster had been considered one of the hotspots of the disease and a fair few MPs had been in self-isolation with symptoms. Health Minister Nadine Dorries was one of those who had contracted the virus.

Our political editor said MPs could return on 21 April to pass Budget legislation, but then be asked to vote to suspend the Commons again – although nothing is finalised.

While the House of Commons is on recess, MPs will still be able to respond to and help their constituents.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had urged MPs to sit further apart while attending the chamber, as well as introducing a staggered voting system to ensure MPs kept a safe distance from each other.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was grateful MPs, peers and staff had worked to complete the emergency legislation.

The bill gives the government new emergency powers to combat the spread of the disease, and is expected to clear all stages in Parliament on Wednesday once it is approved by the House of Lords.

Mr Rees Mogg said: “Further discussions will continue within government, with the parliamentary authorities and members to ensure Parliament operates safely for all those who work there.

“The legislature must be able to continue its vital democratic functions of conducting scrutiny, authorising spending and making laws.”

He said the “aim” is for MPs to return to work on 21 April, but added that he would “keep the situation under review in terms of medical advice”.

Labour MP Chris Bryant criticised the timing of the decision arguing: “It must be wrong that Parliament is suspended before the government has a proper package in place for the self employed.”

Another Labour MP, David Lammy, agreed and said: “The government should announce a solution today. We cannot leave anyone behind.”

And their party colleague Barry Sheerman called for “new ways of maintaining proper scrutiny of the government”.

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BBC News – UK Politics

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