Coronavirus: Emergency law to be debated by reduced Welsh assembly

Coronavirus: Emergency law to be debated by reduced Welsh assembly

An emergency law to tackle the coronavirus pandemic will be debated in the Senedd later, but by a limited number of AMs.

The coronavirus bill will allow Welsh ministers to detain and isolate people, stop mass gatherings and close premises.

Numbers in the assembly will be severely reduced after the UK announced strict new curbs to everyday life.

Only 12 AMs from the party groups are expected to attend.

On Monday night First Minister Mark Drakeford appealed to people in Wales to stay at home.

He echoed the announced from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, that people should remain indoors except for shopping for basic necessities, daily exercise, any medical need and travelling to and from essential work.

AMs will debate whether to give their consent to the coronavirus law, which is expected to be passed swiftly by the UK Parliament in Westminster.

The regular first minister’s questions session will not take place, although Mr Drakeford will give a statement on coronavirus.

Six government AMs, three Conservatives, two Plaid AMs, and one Brexit Party AM are expected to attend. It is not clear if any independents will take part.

The UK government has worked on the coronvirus legislation alongside the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations.

It provides sweeping measures, for up to two years, to help UK authorities tackle the coronavirus outbreak. It will need to be reviewed by Parliament every six months.

Ministers in Wales will be able to:

  • Take people into or keep them in quarantine, or direct a person to attend a designated place
  • Restrict or prohibit mass gatherings
  • Close premises

First Minister Mark Drakeford said last week the bill would give ministers powers not normally seen in peacetime.

The law also includes measures aimed at freeing up resources in public services.

Ministers will be able to instruct schools to close, or to remain open.

Powers will allow the redeployment of teachers to address shortages, remove standard ratios of staff-to-children requirements, and allow people to return more rapidly to the workplace.

In health and social care, the bill will allow ministers to state circumstances where DBS criminal record checks can be “disapplied”.

At a UK level, airports could be shut and more court hearings could take place by phone or video.

Although it is UK legislation, which was examined by the House of Commons on Monday and will be considered by the Lords on Tuesday and Wednesday, its provisions for Wales mean AMs must give their formal permission through a legislative consent motion.

Vaughan Gething, health minister, will also address the Senedd in a shorter Plenary session.

The session will begin at the earlier than usual time of 10:00 GMT.

Published at Tue, 24 Mar 2020 00:22:38 +0000

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