Coronavirus Bill ‘will have mistakes’ after being rushed through in five days

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the measures, which will last for two years, include “significant departures from the way we normally do things”. But he told the Commons they were “strictly temporary” and proportionate and he hopes some of the powers will “never have to be used”.

“We ask for these powers as a whole to protect life,” he said. “We’ll relinquish them as soon as the threat to life from coronavirus has passed.

“This bill means we can do the right thing at the right time guided by the best possible science.”

The Coronavirus Bill is expected to go before peers today and pass its final stages tomorrow.

Parliament could then go into an early Easter recess.

Government, police, coroners and doctors will all be given more powers under the reforms.

Councils will be able to prioritise people with the greatest needs to cope with the demands on social care and hospitals will be able to discharge patients more quickly to free up beds.

Registering deaths will be easier and crematoriums will be able to extend their operating hours to hold evening funerals.

Changes also include reducing the number of doctors needed to section people with mental health issues and giving police authority to force anyone infected with the virus to self-isolate.

NHS staff will also be covered by a state-backed insurance scheme if they are drafted into new roles away from their normal duties.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis, above, called for the bill to be rewritten in 12 months because there were likely to be “mistakes” in the 321 pages of emergency legislation.

The ex-Brexit Secretary said he was also concerned that powers allowing the Government to postpone elections could be misused.

“This Bill was put together in five days, it is 300-odd pages long,” he said.

“It is guaranteed, bluntly, that it will have mistakes and unnecessary elements to it.

“Those mistakes will all be in one direction and that’s giving more power to the Government than is necessary.

“What’s going to happen is we’re going to have another one-day debate and we’re going to talk about the same 320 pages in six months’ time,” he added.

“How is that going to work out? Are we going to amend the Bill? We can’t, there’s no scope to amend it.

“My view is very different – we accept it is going to be there for a year for safety’s sake and that gives you six to nine months to learn what has happened scientifically, what has happened economically and what has happened on the social front.

“We may have no high street by then, no pubs left by then or very few. You just don’t know.

“The trick is to write it properly and present it nine months in so we can spend three months looking at it.”

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